The Yellow Pages Hates Being Held Accountable for Its Talk

During a recent conversation with Ken Clark in the comments of one of this blogs, I mentioned that regulating the yellow pages industry, such as fining companies who delivery to households who’ve opted out of deliveries, should not be fought by the industry since it’s simply holding the industry accountable for the talk that they talk.

It’s the same as someone who drives at a reasonable speed complaining about speed limits. They’re not a burden if you’re compliant, which the yellow pages aggressively claims to be with opt-out systems.

This, of course, was too reasonable to Ken Clark’s taste, leading to the following response:

So you want the industry to stop fighting unnecessary attempts to regulate it?? What radical social group did you get your business training in?? Can you name one industry that doesn’t fight unneeded regulations??

Here’s my take on that:

Ken, I can see where, from your financial perspective, holding the YP industry accountable for its own talking points would be seem unnecessary. However, politicians generally don’t go out of their way to find stuff to regulate.

In this case, it appears that legislators around the country are hearing from constituents who are saying, “Could you do something about all of this yellow pages waste? I’ve called the companies to tell them to stop delivering their directories to me, but they don’t seem to be honoring those requests.”

The legislators then get in contact with the YP industry, who says they have systems in place for opt-out requests. The legislators then go back to their constituents, who point out that they have opted out yet continue to receive what they now consider to be litter that’s contributing to the city, country, or state’s waste burden.

The legislators then think to themselves, “This should be a fairly simple problem to solve. We’ll just write something up here that holds the yellow pages industry accountable for the talk that they talk regarding opt-out systems. They shouldn’t have a problem with that since it’s not exactly a burden to do what you say that you’re already doing.”

But then the yellow pages industry starts freaking out. “You mean you’re actually going to hold us accountable for the talk we talk? How dare you! That’s completely unnecessary!”

Is it?

3 thoughts on “The Yellow Pages Hates Being Held Accountable for Its Talk”

  1. Industries are not objective arbiters of what regulation is or is not “necessary”. But let’s leave that aside for a minute.

    While I am not opposed to fines on industry, I think we could go with something simpler. Why not ask a telephone company to take an OSHA approach? Instead of reporting how many days it has been since they had an accident, ask them to report how many days it has been since they delivered a phone book to a house that has opted out.

    Ask them to post it to a blog, in cyberspace and challenge opponents to prove otherwise. Companies willing to do it should get kudos and credit for stepping up to the plate. Regardless of their intentions, a telephone company that cannot take this challenge should not be claiming that they truly honor opting out.

    In Minnesota, hospitals willingly report medical errors including mistakes that caused people to die. Is the telephone book industry afraid to admit when they waste paper?

  2. Matt, it would be interesting to see a yellow pages company give that a try. With accidents, the interests of all parties are well aligned. I’m not sure that’s the case with YP, where one side benefits from broad distribution while the other side loves, hates, or is indifferent regarding distribution.

  3. I dunno. It takes guts to admit you removed the healthy kidney from a cancer patient.

    If hospitals can stand by their pledge to be honest about failure, why can’t the YP industry do it.

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