SAN FRANCISCO, — The Local Search Association filed suit on June 7th against the City and County of San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Edwin Lee asking the U.S. District Court to overturn the city’s controversial new Yellow Pages ordinance.
The suit claims that the city’s rationale for effectively banning Yellow Pages is unconstitutional, in that it leaves no discernible limits to the government’s power to suppress the free distribution of information on paper. In addition, since the city singles out Yellow Pages – while other sources produce 99 percent of paper waste – the ordinance is arbitrary and irrational.
“This suit is based on the U.S. Constitution’s protection of our free speech, as publishers, and the rights of consumers to choose where they get community information without government interference,” said Neg Norton, president, Local Search Association. “Yellow Pages publishers don’t want to deliver directories to people who don’t want them, and the industry offers an opt-out program to stop delivery. We do believe, however, that there are limits to any city’s ability to control how we communicate community information, whether it is in print or online.”
Concerns for San Francisco Residents
The suit claims the ordinance disenfranchises residents without Internet access – including lower income, seniors and ethnic communities – and those that simply prefer print directories to find vital local civic and business information.
Research from Burke, a premier independent research and consulting firm, shows that approximately 71 percent of San Francisco residents used Yellow Pages directories in the past year to locate local civic and business information.
“According to the California Public Utilities Commission, nearly one in three San Francisco residents do not have high-speed Internet access. These residents may rely solely on printed Yellow Pages for emergency information and access to vital services such as doctors or maintenance professionals. Others may simply prefer the convenience of Yellow Pages and the community information it provides,” said Norton. “We don’t believe the city has limitless power to step into someone’s home and say you must use your laptop or iPad to find a local business. The decision is not the city’s to make.”
In passing the ordinance, city leaders ignored the hundreds of small business owners that rely on print Yellow Pages who expressed their strong opposition to the ordinance via in-person meetings, letters, e-mails, petitions, video testimonials, and a rally in front of City Hall.
City leaders justified the ordinance as an environmental measure and a means to reduce costs, but publishers say those arguments rely on questionable data and a highly flawed economic study designed by the city to support the restrictions.
Immediate negative impacts of the Yellow Pages delivery restrictions in San Francisco include:
A significant inconvenience to the seven in 10 adults who used print directories last year. It doesn’t make sense to ask the majority of residents to opt-in to receive Yellow Pages to accommodate the minority of residents who would prefer not to receive a directory.
Onerous opt-in requirements make the cost of publishing directories nearly impossible, effectively banning directories to anyone that wants them and increasing the difficulty of obtaining a directory for those who need them.
The ability of local businesses to use print Yellow Pages to generate new customers and sales is harmed, putting storefronts and workers at risk. Many small businesses do not have an online presence, or find that Internet advertising isn’t the only solution.
Directories oriented to specific communities – including Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking, and LGBT residents – will face the same restrictions.
The business of publishing and distributing Yellow Pages employs hundreds of people in and around San Francisco. This ordinance puts their jobs at risk during a period of high unemployment.
Industry Commitment to Environmental Responsibility
The Yellow Pages industry repeatedly has demonstrated its commitment to address waste reduction through comprehensive sustainable production, recycling and consumer choice programs that will keep local jobs in place and ensure the continued availability of directories to those that want them.
“We provide consumers nationwide with a single, easy-to-use site to stop or limit delivery of directories to their homes at www.yellowpagesoptout.com,” said Larry Angove, president and CEO, Association of Directory Publishers, which joins Local Search Association in opposition to the ordinance. “Our industry’s solution to address unwanted phone books is in place and working well. Nationwide, consumers are taking advantage of the ability to customize or stop directory delivery through our program. Legislators are using this issue for political purposes and creating duplicative initiatives to advance their own personal ambitions.”
About the Local Search Association
Formerly the Yellow Pages Association, the Local Search Association (www.localsearchassociation.org) is the largest trade organization of print, digital, mobile and social media that help local businesses get found and selected by ready-to-buy consumers. Association members include U.S. and international Yellow Pages companies, search engine marketers, online listings and review sites, digital advertising agencies and mobile search providers. The Association has members in 29 countries.
Read the Local Search Association blog at www.localsearchinsider.com and follow @LocalSearchAssn on Twitter. To learn more about Yellow Pages advertising, visit www.buyyellow.com. To choose which phone books you receive, or stop delivery of all directories, visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com.
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 service 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, 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 the Local Search Association.
The Association of Directory Publishers is a Massachusetts not-for-profit corporation.