After one year, city’s phone book opt-out program is big success

More than one-fifth of all Seattle households and businesses have used, made a phone call, or mailed a postcard to opt out of telephone book deliveries since the service was started by the city, last May 5.

“We know there are still many residents and businesses who want to stop unwanted phone books from landing on their porches and we’re working to reach them this spring,” said City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose leadership resulted in the phone book opt-out legislation last year. “Ultimately, we hope every resident and business will let publishers know whether or not they want to receive a phone book.”

With more than 75,000 of the homes and businesses in Seattle, have stopped nearly 40,000 unwanted individual phonebooks deliveries, saving 375 tons of paper, the savings are permanent until a user decides to opt back into the program.

“Right now is a good time to go online or make a phone call to opt out, because the 2012 phone book delivery cycle begins in June,” said O’Brien. “Opting out of all or some phone books now can stop deliveries for this year – and permanently.”

May 22 is the last day to opt out to stop deliveries of Dex phone books this year, according to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). Under the regulations established by the city, residents and businesses must opt out at least 30 days before deliveries start, giving phone book publisher’s time to remove opt-outs from their lists of delivery addresses.

The website allows users to opt out of some or all phone book titles, including residential listings, the “white pages.” Phone book deliveries can also be stopped by calling (206) 504-3066, an automated line. The city expects to open a Spanish language version of the call-in line in June.

Seattle businesses and residents using the opt-out system have stopped an average of 5.5 individual phone book deliveries per address, so it appears that many of them have canceled all of the six phone books that were slated for delivery last year. City regulations allow SPU to fine publishers $125 for each valid complaint that a yellow pages book was delivered despite a timely opt-out request when errors exceed one-half of 1 percent of total opt outs for any one title. In the 2011 delivery cycle, all three publishers stayed under the limit and none were fined.