Should Consumers Be Able To Opt-Out Of Phone Book Deliveries?

Phone book publishers spit out over 600 million phone books for just over 300 million Americans. Now the $17 billion a year industry is defending itself from state legislatures that want to restrict phone book circulations so consumers don’t wreck their snowblowers when they hit snow-covered phone books. True story.

The association has paid outside lobbyists about $50,000 so far this year to defend it in communities across the country. Two main points the group tries to get across are that phone books help promote local businesses and that they are made almost entirely from wood scraps collected at saw mills and recycled paper.

In Albany, city councilman Joseph Igoe is trying to build support for a law that would limit the distribution of phone books and require publishers to make it easy for people to halt delivery. Igoe said the issue came to his attention while campaigning door-to-door last spring and saw phone books wrapped in plastic littering sidewalks, driveways and lawns.

If Igoe succeeds in passing legislation, it will be noteworthy. Proposals have been floated — without success — by state legislatures in Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Washington.

Phone book publishers peddle the usual free market babble to defend the proliferation of yellow doorstops, saying it’s a “sign of competition in a healthy business.”

Even residents who do want more than one phone book — such as 81-year-old Jean Angell, who lives in Igoe’s district and likes to keep a phone book by each phone in her house — get fed up with the extras.

“They delivered two to the house across the street, and it’s been vacant since last October,” she said.

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As phone books multiply, so do consumer hang-ups [AP]
(AP Photo/Bill Sikes)