SF yellow pages ban to consider


San Francisco would become the first city in the country to ban the unsolicited distribution of the yellow pages under legislation that will be officially introduced today by the chairman of the supervisory board, David Chiu.

Large volumes, deposited in almost every home and office in the city, are becoming increasingly obsolete in the Internet age, Chiu says, and often end up unopened in the recycling bin.

His office estimates that more than 1.5 million Yellow Pages telephone directories are distributed in San Francisco each year.

“If we take the environment seriously, it’s time we recognized that phone books are a 20th century tool that does not meet 21st century business or environmental needs,†Chiu said.

A business group said on Monday that although it shares some of Chiu’s goals, it will consider a legal challenge if its legislation is approved as is.

Seattle first introduced a “waiver” provision so consumers could stop unsolicited phone book deliveries.

But San Francisco’s proposal – billed as the city’s latest green initiative that bans plastic bags – would go much further.

How would it work

Under the proposal, telephone companies and other distributors and publishers of Yellow Pages telephone directories would be prohibited from leaving them on doorsteps and in lobbies without prior authorization.

Yellow Pages businesses could contact consumers by email, direct mail, telephone solicitations, or in person to ask if they would like the directory. If the answer is positive, the telephone directory can be delivered. Consumers could also pick them up at a distribution center.

Unsolicited deliveries, however, could result in fines of up to $ 500 for each violation. The law would be enforced by the city’s environment ministry.

White Pages – whose broadcast is mandated by state law – would not be affected. Double white page and yellow page telephone directories are expected to comply with the new restrictions, if approved.

Industry concerns

A senior representative of the Yellow Pages Association met with Chiu and Mayor Ed Lee on Monday to voice concerns.

The proposed law “would violate our constitutional rights – the right to broadcast the word,” said Amy Healy, vice president of public policy and sustainability for a business group that represents the $ 13 billion industry. per year.

She said it would unfairly target an industry. Direct mail companies, phone lawyers and the like would not face the same crackdown, she said.

Her group supports reducing unwanted directories, she said, but through voluntary means. Today, she said, the Association of Yellow Pages and the Association of Directory Publishers are planning to launch an improved website, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, which allows US consumers to choose telephone directories. whether they receive or stop delivery. Healy said printed yellow pages still play a big role in the consumer industry, with 12 billion searches per year, according to industry data.

Other bills similar to Chiu’s were introduced, but were not approved.

Legislation to watch

“Legislatures and citizens will be watching closely what happens in San Francisco,” said Scott Cassel, executive director of Product Stewardship Institute Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit that works with government officials on initiatives. environmental policy.

The institute, which supports restricting the distribution of unwanted phone books, estimates that local governments and consumers spend about $ 54 million a year getting rid of phone books and an additional $ 9 million recycling them. Lee supports Chiu’s legislation in concept, but wants to see how it would affect small businesses and consumers before making a final decision, mayor spokesperson Tony Winnicker said.

More than a dozen companies contacted by The Chronicle said they no longer advertise in the Yellow Pages. “We’re getting a lot more miles online,†said Carol Covington, owner of Blow Up Lab, a city’s digital photo and graphics company.

But Sharon Goh, owner of Metro Locksmiths Inc., said that for businesses like hers, the Yellow Pages still play an important role, especially for people who aren’t tech-savvy. “The Yellow Pages continue to generate business,†she said.


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Calvin W. Soper

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