Remember how state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, announced in February a bill to stop doorstep delivery of telephone directories in California unless a customer opts in to receive it? Well, even after being softened so that it merely would have strengthened already-existing rules to allow customers to opt out, the bill now is as dead as the trees those books are printed on, and Yee says a telecommunications giant is to blame.
Yee said Californians Against Waste, Environment California, Natural Resources Defense Council, Planning and Conservation League, and the Sierra Club agreed with him that Unused phonebooks are a major source of waste and a significant environmental burden for local municipalities, but AT&T convinced his legislative peers otherwise. SB 920 went down to defeat on the state Senate floor today on a 12-18 vote.
“AT&T put their own financial interests before the interests of their customers,” Yee said in a statement issued afterward. “At a time when we are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, Californians deserved a choice and the opportunity to opt-out of receiving a directory. Killing this bill will result in further degradation of our environment, a loss in much-needed local resources, and millions of consumers forced to accept unneeded and unwanted phonebooks.”
More than 78 million telephone directories are distributed annually to California business and residential telephone consumers. The Product Stewardship Institute says telephone books represent 660,000 tons of waste per year, with local governments bearing the costs to recycle or otherwise dispose of them. Yee cites a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report which says not publishing a phone book reduces greenhouse gases by about three times as much as recycling.
The California Chamber of Commerce had argued against the bill, saying these directories are still the main source of phone-number information for consumers, especially those over age 45 and those with income under $25,000 per year. It also said the bill unfairly saddles the phone companies with responsibility to ensure no other, third-party directories are delivered to customers who haven’t opted in. And, it said, doing away with the books would both hurt small businesses that advertise in the directories and diminish the market for recycled paper.
UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M. MONDAY 6/7: The Yellow Pages Association – a trade organization representing an industry worth an estimated $12 billion in the United States – weighed in, calling the bill’s defeat good riddance.
The group said the bill would’ve added layers of government regulation on companies that help small businesses market themselves, employ thousands of Californians and contribute millions in state taxes.
“The defeat of this legislation is welcome news to local businesses that rely on directory advertising to get customers in the door during this difficult economy,” YPA President Neg Norton said in a news release. “We’re pleased that California officials made the right decision by rejecting unnecessary government regulation on companies that help small businesses market themselves and risk thousands of jobs and millions in state taxes from directory publishers.”
The YPA says almost three of every four California adults used the print Yellow Pages at least once in the past year for local information, according to research released in March by an independent marketing reseach firm.; one in three used it at least once in the past week. Yee’s urban constituency is more online-savvy, the group noted, but the bill overlooked the needs of suburban and rural users. And an industry website provides a tool for people wishing to limit or stop home delivery.