Yellow Pages Association Freaks Out About Seattle’s Progressive Proposal

Seattle is trying to recoup some of the costs of dealing with the printed yellow pages directories that are delivered to city residents without their permission. As I’ve mentioned here before, Yellow Pages disposal, whether recycled or trashed, puts a significant burden on municipalities. Seattle is attempting to address this by placing a reasonable “advanced recovery fee” that shifts the burden of disposal back to the companies who created the waste in the first place.

I like this plan for a variety of reasons:

1. It saves the city money. Budgets are tight, and spending limited funds to clean up the waste of private companies is a poor use of city resources. One that a city shouldn’t have to bear.

2. It may make yellow pages directory companies take their opt-out lists more seriously. If Yellow Pages companies are paying for the right to deliver directories to vacant homes, foreclosures, and residents who no longer use the books, they may actually think twice.

As you can probably imagine, the Yellow Pages Association does NOT like this plan one bit. Here’s an excerpt from the Legislative Alert they’ve posted to their site:

Yesterday the Seattle City Council’s Neighborhood and Public Utilities Committee passed by a vote of 2-0, Councilman Mike O’Brien’s ordinance to establish a city run opt-out site imposes an advanced recovery fee per (ARF) book as well as a fee per ton of books distributed in the city. Also of interest:

* The ARF would be assessed at 14-cents per book, plus $148 a ton to pay for the cost of the city opt-out site and the cost to recover the directories.
* The opt-out is indefinite or until the individual opts back in OR there is indication that someone has moved.
* The city’s registry will be available by mail, telephone, e-mail and online registration.
* Requires publishers to provide the city with lists of names & address of all residents and businesses who have contacted publishers directly with their request to stop receiving books.
* Publishers must prominently display on the front cover of directories distributed in the city the telephone number, website and mailing address of the city’s opt-out registry.
* Publishers must prominently display on their websites a link to the City’s opt-out registry along with information regarding the process for residents and business to opt-out of receiving delivery of directories.
* All content and materials included in a directory distributed within the city must be recyclable. This provision is particularly directed at magnets used on the covers of directories.

The industry will continue to strongly oppose this measure as it will hurt local small businesses and strain overburdened city resources and infringes upon the legal rights of publishers.

Notice the opposition to an indefinite opt-out. As I understand the YPA’s position, when you opt-out of receiving yellow pages, they really only want to take you off their list for 2-3 years. After that, they would prefer to assume that you didn’t really mean to opt-out, or that you missed the books so much that the YPA’s members are doing you a favor by dumping books at your home or office again. And, again, without permission.

I’d like to see Seattle succeed in their effort to do what’s best for their citizens. I like to think that the government is of, by, and for the people, rather than for companies that refuse to clean up their own messes.

2 thoughts on “Yellow Pages Association Freaks Out About Seattle’s Progressive Proposal”

  1. You are kidding, correct? Why not everyone pay for their own mess? Approx 16% of households move every year, or just about every household changes hands every 6 years. How can you make an address permanently opting out.

    Why exempt the gay and lesbian directory. Does their directory not make a mess?

    I think the courts will rule that there is a 1st amendment problem and equal protection problem with this law….

  2. @john, it sounds like you’d probably consider the Seattle legislation acceptible then, since – as I understand it – they’re proposing that proof of an address change (home sale) be used to determine when to add an address back onto a distribution list.

    The bigger issue here is that you’re assuming that people WANT yellow pages rather than having them opt-in to receive them. Just because someone new is living at an address 3-5 years from now does not mean that they want YP directories. Especially not multiple copies year after year from multiple companies.

    To me, it seems reasonable to only deliver books to people who request them. AKA: opt-in. That way, new property owners will receive the books they’ll actually use, local businesses will receive the business they’re looking for, and we all won’t end up paying for wasteful print YP spam. Would you be willing to agree to that?

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