Yellow Pages Publishers Sue to Overturn Seattle's Unconstitutional Phone Book Law; Offer Alternative Consumer Choice Option Suit Asks Court to Review Free Speech Concerns as Industry Outlines Better Path
SEATTLE, Nov. 15, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Dex One Corp., SuperMedia and the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) today filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to challenge a Seattle phone book ordinance on the grounds that it restricts publishers' fundamental right to free speech.
The complaint, filed by lead attorneys David Burman and Kathleen O'Sullivan of Seattle-based Perkins Coie, LLP, asserts that the ordinance enacted last month violates the First Amendment, which prohibits government from licensing or exercising advance approval of the press, from directing publishers what to publish and to whom they may communicate, and from assessing fees for the privilege of publishing. The suit also claims that the Seattle ordinance unlawfully interferes with interstate commerce and violates the privacy rights of Seattle residents.
"We agree that residents should have a choice of whether they receive a Yellow Pages directory, but the Seattle City Council has passed a law that violates the most basic freedom in the United States," said Neg Norton, president, YPA. "Even as we oppose the ordinance in court, we are moving forward with plans to provide a first-class, national consumer choice website at www.yellowpagesoptout.com. This website will easily enable consumers to opt-out of unwanted phonebooks and will add no costs to taxpayers anywhere – in Seattle or across the country."
The industry's consumer choice site, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, will accomplish on a nationwide basis what Seattle now is trying to build on its own – with zero investment from the city and without the free speech concerns that the law currently presents.
The Seattle ordinance unfairly singles out the Yellow Pages industry with regulations and fees that are not imposed on other media, including discriminatory license fees for the right to publish and unprecedented "advance recovery fees" that previously have been limited to toxic or hard-to-recycle materials. The ordinance also mandates that publishers turn over consumers' private information to the City of Seattle and imposes obligatory cover language dictated by the city government.
"State and municipal laws against Yellow Pages are bad for small businesses and consumers on a number of levels," Norton said. "Our publications are more than just the sum of their advertisements – they are a valuable tool providing access to local civic and government information to residents, and help bring customers in the door of local businesses. The City of Seattle should treat us no differently than other media including newspapers, magazines, direct mail, billboards and television."
"Considering the value to businesses and consumers that directories bring, and the admission by the ordinance's lead sponsor that Yellow Pages are a 'drop in the bucket' of the city's collection process, one has to wonder if the city's intention is to impose similar free speech restrictions on other media in the future," said Larry Angove, president of the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP), in support of the industry's effort.
A Better Path to Choice for Cities and Industry
YPA, ADP and their member companies believe that the industry's cohesive, national approach to consumer choice is better for cities in number of ways:
- No burden to cities, taxpayers, or city government staff: Industry assumes all costs and staffing associated with development, maintenance and promotion of www.yellowpagesoptout.com.
- Greater awareness: One official industry site will result in greater awareness for consumers across the country, amplifying the positive impact of the initiative.
- Integration with publishers' technology systems: The website will work seamlessly with the publishers' systems; no third-party vendor has the same level of existing knowledge.
- Library of directory covers provide better clarity of choice for the user: The website will include visuals that will make it easier for residents to identify the directories they wish to keep or stop.
- Protected personal information: Residents using www.yellowpagesoptout.com can be confident that their personal information will only be shared with publishers and not sold to third parties for any reason, and not used by city governments for the marketing of city services.
"If every city launched a patchwork of opt-out websites, it would be difficult for publishers to honor delivery requests and would place additional burden on stretched city resources to build and maintain these sites," Angove said.
Sustainability Programs Make Directory Publishing More Environmentally Friendly
Directory publishers have made significant investments in sustainable production practices since launching industrywide Environmental Guidelines in 2007. Successes include:
- Launch of consumer choice programs (www.yellowpagesoptout.com) to give consumers a choice to reduce or stop directory delivery.
- Use of paper that contains recycled content and fiber derived from lumber byproducts (woodchips) – making it unnecessary to use new trees to produce Yellow Pages.
- A 29 percent reduction in the use of directory paper since 2006, as a result of advanced pagination systems and programs to reduce the number and size of directories.
- Use of soy-based inks and non-toxic dyes that pose little threat to soil or groundwater supplies and adhesives in the binding process that are eco-friendly and non-toxic.
- Support of recycling and up-cycling programs that ensure directories have a life after use.
"We are confident the court will recognize the repercussions this law would have on free speech protections, and that communities realize that we're committed to working with local governments to reduce delivery of unwanted directories and to producing products with less environmental impact," Norton said.
About the Yellow Pages Association
Originally founded in 1975 as the National Yellow Pages Service Association (NYPSA), the Yellow Pages Association® (YPA®) is the largest trade organization of a print and digital media industry valued at more than $27 billion worldwide. Association members include Yellow Pages publishers, who produce products that account for over 95 percent of the Yellow Pages revenue generated in the U.S. and Canada. Members also include the industry's international, national and local sales forces, certified marketing representatives (CMRs) and associate members, a group of industry stakeholders that include Yellow Pages advertisers, vendors and suppliers. The Association has members in 29 countries.
Neg Norton is president of the Association. Christopher Cummings, CEO of Marquette Group, is the chairman of the board of directors. YPA board member companies include Super Media, Local Insight Media, Dex One, DAC Group, AT&T Advertising Solutions, Wahlstrom, Telmetrics, Inc, Nationwide Media, Yellow Pages Group and YellowBook.
The Yellow Pages medium provides a powerful return on investment for advertisers and can serve as the cornerstone of an integrated advertising media mix. For more information, please visit the YPA website at www.ypassociation.org or call (908) 286-2380. To learn more about Yellow Pages advertising, visit www.buyyellow.com. For a Who's Who of Internet Yellow Pages and search engines, visit www.localsearchguide.org.
The Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association is a Delaware not-for-profit corporation, dba Yellow Pages Association.
About the Association of Directory Publishers
The Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) (http://www.adp.org), founded in 1898, is the oldest trade association in North America representing the interests of directory publishers and the companies whose products and services support the industry.
Larry Angove is president and chief executive officer of ADP. Danny Bills, owner of ATD – Austin, is chairman of its Board of Directors. ADP Board member companies include Bridgerland Phone Book, Brown Owl Publishing, Downey Publishing, Hagadone Directories, Lakeview Publishing, Names and Numbers, SunShine Pages, Tahoe Telephone Directories, Texas Publishing, Valley Yellow Pages, Yellowbook, and the National Marketing Division of YPA.
SOURCE Yellow Pages Association