You local city government now wants to get into regulating what you do or don’t get on your doorstep by taxing selected, designated private industry. Seattle’s first target – Yellow Pages.
Despite the industry’s best efforts to work with the Seattle City government on using established publisher and industry association systems which allowed residents to freely opt-out (to the tune of over 15,000) of print directories, the Seattle City Council has just approved by a vote of 8 to 1 a new ordinance that has the city establish (perhaps through a third party) their own opt-out list for residents that don’t want to receive a phone book. Should a resident still receive an unwanted book, the publisher could be fined $125 per incident. To further add more confusion to the process, publishers would have to report the number of books they distribute and pay a 14 cent-per-book “recovery fee” even as publishers acknowledged that the timing is impractical for them to provide such information. But that’s what happens when a city legislator thinks they know how the publishing business works.
Supports gushed over the green message they think the bill sends with no regard for the impact it has on the small/midsized businesses in their area, or the list of other legal matters is causes. For example, Maggie Stonecipher, the AVP of Print and Delivery Services for Dex One testified (again) at the hearing that “the ordinance also requires us to turn over information from consumers that have already contacted us. Under our privacy policies, it says we won’t share that information.” That argument fell on deft ears at the Council.
The council lead called it “free market legislation”. Obviously he has no clue what a free market looks like, because it clearly isn’t one where you single out a single industry that is responsible for less than 1% of the waste stream that the greenies seemed all worried about. I assume that this “free market” structure that the Seattle City Council wants to impose will now be enforced on the newspaper industry, the bottled beverage industry, the makers of cardboard, electronics manufactures especially PC manufactures, and so on and so on???
Immediately after the vote, which sounded like a love fest between the 8 supporting legislators just oozing over how hard they had worked on this legislation (isn’t that what they are suppose to do?) the Yellow Pages Association released this statement from Neg Norton, President of the Yellow Pages Association:
“We respect the city’s desire to reduce waste and are disappointed that our extensive efforts to work with the Council to address consumer choice in a fair and efficient way were overlooked today.
We agree that a streamlined approach to consumer choice makes the most sense, which is why Yellow Pages companies have committed to upgrading our existing site, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, so consumers across the country can visit a single, centralized hub to manage the delivery of phone books. Another new site, run by the city, will undoubtedly create more waste by duplicating efforts already underway and complicate logistics for publishers working to honor delivery requests.
We have never believed it makes sense to deliver a directory to someone who doesn’t want one. Seattle residents need not wait until the city can develop its own site to stop delivery. Residents can visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com today to find information about stopping delivery of the phone books they no longer wish to receive.
We believe the ordinance, as passed, will not hold up under legal challenge. As an industry, we are committed to reducing the number of unwanted yellow pages directories. We must, however, ensure that our members’ rights are respected and oppose any attempts to single out the yellow pages industry with disparate regulatory and financial treatment, including discriminatory license fees and advance recovery fees not applied to competing media and non-media sources of paper. The industry also opposes any provisions that compel our members to promote a duplicative, city-run program through mandatory notices on the covers of their directories…”
Seattle residents, get your check book out. From here, the industry’s next step is clear – the mother of all lawsuits that they will win, the cost of which your dear city will have to bear.
What a shame. It didn’t have to be this way. A working process was already up and running. But that wasn’t enough for the greenies. Someone in big business had to be punished no matter the costs or the impact…