Typically the telephone companies would bill callers to chat lines and then remit 45% of the money collected to chat line operators.The telephone companies placed the chat line charges on a customers local phone bill.In concept they have a lot in common with platforms such as Ebay: the seller provides the picture(s), description, and sets the price, a percentage of which is kept by the platform.
This is the world portrayed in Spike Lee's movie about phone sex, Girl 6.
At that time independent phone sex was more dangerous, as Lee's movie portrays.
By the end of the 1980s, nearly all of the major local phone companies in the United States, plus the major long distance carriers, were actively involved in the adult chat line business.
The telephone companies would provide billing services for chat line companies.
Once means of transmitting payment were developed, phone sex turned into primarily a commercial activity, with customers (overwhelmingly male) and sellers (overwhelmingly female).
Due to the potential for emotional intimacy between those who have engaged in phone sex, it is a matter of some debate whether phone sex is to be considered infidelity when involving a person outside of a committed personal relationship.
The incentives for providers were then reversed; rather than earning money from keeping the customer on the line (orgasm delayed), they earned more from bringing the caller to orgasm quickly, so as to move on rapidly to another call.
Unused minutes were rarely usable on a second call.
With the progress of technology it became more practical, convenient, and economical for providers to work out of their homes.
Human dispatchers — female, except for gay male phone sex — answered the advertised phone numbers, processed payment via credit card, chose who of the available performers in the dispatcher's judgment best matched the clients' fantasy (grandma, black girl, college girl, etc.), and connected the client with the provider. Either could hang up, though some services put economic pressure on providers not to do so.
Software platforms were custom written to handle money collection and transfer, connecting caller and sex worker though neither could see anything but the platform's phone number, and metering the connection.