Amy Healy Eats Yellow Pages for Breakfast

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after reading a summary of community efforts to legislate opt-out policies for yellow pages companies.

The Minnesota bill calls for telephone directory publishers to prominently publish a statement on their directories directing consumers who do not wish to receive a phone book, and offer a toll free number and a website that can be used to opt out. The penalty for a violation, presumably the delivery of a single book to someone who has opted out, is $500. That could which could add up quickly, though a delivery in error can be offered as a defense.The bill also calls for publishers to maintain a database of names and addresses of all those who opt out of delivery.

That sound reasonable. A person asks a company to stop sending them yellow pages they never asked for in the first place. The company then litters on their doorstep with unwanted print yellow pages spam. So the company is penalized for not holding up their end of the bargain.

However, reasonable solutions and financial interests don’t always mix. For example. Amy Healy, public policy director for the Yellow Pages Industry, is no fan of legislation that says people should have a right to easily opt-out of receiving yellow pages spam. She probably wouldn’t use the term “yellow pages spam” to refer to the print spam her industry creates, but you get the concept. Here’s what she has to say about it to The Kelsey Group:

The Yellow Pages Association’s public policy director Amy Healy told us the industry plans to continue fighting to defeat each bill rather than just trying to make them more palatable.

“We are still trying to stop all of these,” she said. “We are committed to a self-regulation approach.”

While I can understand not wanting to be put in a position of facing potential fines, there is no reason why Amy Healy should be worked up about Minnesota’s yellow pages opt-out bill. All a yellow pages company needs to do to avoid being fined is to commit to a self-regulation approach as Amy Healy describes.

The law will simply act as a catalyst for the yellow pages to actually follow through on their commitment to self-regulation. That’s something Amy Healy should applaud rather than spend time and resources fighting. That is, if her word is good on self-regulation.

Walk the walk: problem solved. Only talk the talk: cough up some cash.

22 thoughts on “Amy Healy Eats Yellow Pages for Breakfast”

  1. They want to “self-regulate” whether they are delivering materials to me that I have specifically opted out of? Isn’t that like a telemarketer self-regulating whether or not to call me?

    Maybe instead of a $500 fine we should force them to print a warning on the front of their yellow pages (i.e. This company reserves the right to raise revenue and waste paper delivering you information that you can more easily find on the internet)

  2. Another problem that exists is that the delivery of many of these books isn’t cohesive at all so self regulation is more of a joke. They’ll pay almost anyone to drive around and drop books off following a simple sheet of paper with addresses on it. I know, my dad used to do it for extra cash. Since the distro is so disconnected I believe it would be all to easy for them to claim “delivery in error” and you’d still get dumped with these books

  3. Self-regulate, hmm…like the coal ash in TVA, like the Financial markets that even Greenspan did not predict would be so foolish as to implode themselves?

    Yes, that is the american way, no?

    Except, that the american way has proven that they do not self-regulate themselves, do they.

    When you first started posting about their spam was when they problem was already obvious to anyone with an eye, and yet their responsiveness was next to zero, instead of receiving the customer feedback and making ‘self regulating’ corrections…they instead choose to convince us that the spam we were receiving should not be considered spam, that we should cherish the value there in these three redundant out of date YP-based books from hell that appeared on our stoop…like we were unable to ‘self-regulate’ what we consider to be unwanted for and undesirable TRASH with no decent opt-out option.

    I say screw opt-out–I WANT OPT-IN LEGISLATION for MN!! NOW!!

    Self-regulate that YP.

  4. The phone book industry is pro-opt-in when it comes to white pages. They don’t seem to think they can run a sustainable business based on a policy of only delivering their free product to people who request it. What does it say about your value if you can’t give your stuff away for free?

  5. Keep fighting the good fight, Ed, against the yellow demons that haunt our doorsteps.

    You know I prefer the term “unwanted phone book dumping” but, hey, it’s all good.

    I wish the hardware stores sold little metal signs people could affix to their doors: NO PHONE BOOKS. I suppose I could have one made, but mass manufactured signs would be so much more convenient.

  6. Interesting idea on the signs, John. I hope I don’t have to deface my property in order to prevent phone book companies from defacing my property with their print spam.

  7. The other problem with opt-out is that in order to stop their YP spam, I have to furnish them with my personal information…and given their inability to treat us as people with rights, what assurance do I have that I will not have that contact information sold again to the next marketing campaigner who we will have to opt-out of in a continual cycle wasting my time and energy.

    Opt-In is the solution, not opt-out…the difference is huge and in our favor, not theirs.

    And since they refuse to be pro-active, it is up to us to contact our favorite legislators to pressure them to act in our interests.

  8. From what I have heard, YPA has spent well over $50K fighting these bills before they can get passed into law. That does not sound like a group that wants to self regulate, rather one that is afraid of exactly how much this is going to cost them in the long run. After all, the Yellow Pages is a cash cow business, with some of the largest publishers averaging 23% + profits.

    Now as a kudo, RHD has actually taken steps to offer an opt out of their product. They launched it as a web site called Select Your Dex.

    And in case you haven’t heard, last night in Albany, NY, in what is sure to set presidence for all of these other cities, the council passed into law a requirement that any Yellow Pages that are delivered must be placed within 10 feet of the door. All publishers must offer a way to opt out of the directory (either on the cover or in the table of contents), and any names added to an opt out list must stay on there for 5 years.

    Let’s watch now and see how many other cities follow suit.

  9. Good to see Rep. Gardner has his priorities straight this session. Trying to get an idea of how to solve the budget deficit from him and his party is like pulling teeth. But when it comes to the all important issue of phone books – a major issue on the campaign trail last year, I’m sure – they’ve got the answers.


  10. Nice, this site is always the place to go for character assasination. You really have to decide if you think no one uses them or they’re a “cash cow”, guys. You can’t have it both ways. and you’d rather give your personal info to any other site BUT the folks who can stop the books?? Just opt-out and get on with your lives already..or is this your life? Guess it beats working.

  11. Celeste, if it’s character assassination to point out an industry spokesperson publicly acknowledging that they plan to fight against consumer rights, I’m guilty as charged. I’m sure anti-consumer rights people are applauding your efforts to stand up for the big guy.

  12. And if it’s okay to attack an industry that provides jobs for tens of thousands of people (especially in this economy), without ever dwelling in facts, I guess that works, too. So you can call me anti-consumer, but I guess that makes you anti-business. I’ve been involved in environmental activism for over 30 years and this type of attack always defeats dialogue and progress. These one-off pieces of legislation never work, the best solutions always come from working with the companies who manufacture the products, the way PSI does.

  13. Celeste, I’m trying to understand your logic here. Are you suggesting that people should simply accept environmentally damaging printed spam into their lives because people are being paid to create the spam?

    If the industry truly is capable of self-regulating, they won’t run into any issues with the proposed legislation. I think you’d agree with that. Correct?

    If someone opts out of receiving phone books, yet still receives them, wouldn’t that be considered littering? Shouldn’t there be a penalty for that? That seems reasonable to me. Agreed?

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