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20 January, 2011

Let your fingers do the cancelling

A BBC report about UK phone books getting smaller (it wasn't particularly interesting) happened to mention something that hadn't even occurred to me: that it's possible to opt out of receiving phone directories altogether.

I don't think I've used Yellow Pages since the mid- 1990s, and I doubt I've ever used BT's Phone Book. I don't even know (or care) what's inside a Thomson Local directory. Every year, each one arrives on my doorstep, prompting me to take the previous year's issue out of its plastic wrapper for the first time and drop it into the recycling bin unopened. Totally pointless.

According to Stop Junk Mail, opting out is as simple as sending an email to each provider (that site offers a utility to streamline the process), or a phone call if one prefers.


Of course, more could be done to combat the advertising industry: compulsory implementation of an opt-in system (no directories delivered unless one specifically requests them – as already done in Belgium) would be an excellent start, as would be charging producers for the disposal of countless tonnes of redundant phone books. Why should local authorities – the public – have to bear the cost, estimated as £7.5 million pa, according to the LGA last year?

Despite unsurprising industry opposition, Seattle seems to be enacting sensible legislation:

... the ordinance directs Seattle Public Utilities to set up a registry of residents who don't want to receive yellow pages, and requires distributors to honor those 'opt-out' requests and pay a license fee and fees for each book and each ton of books delivered.
It also requires distributors to "prominently and conspicuously" post on book covers how to opt out of future deliveries.

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