Yellow Pages Opt-Out Not Working in Canada?

by Chris Silver Smith

On the “Yellow Pages – Opt Out requirement must end!” Facebook group, a number of members have reported that the opt-out hasn’t worked.

Yellow Pages Delivery Opt-Out Abolishment Group on Facebook

Canadian Yellow Pages Delivery Opt-Out Abolishment Group on Facebook

Frederic Bohbot’s group was primarily targeted to Montreal, aimed particularly at the Yellow Pages Group company in Canada, a.k.a. Groupe Pages Jaunes.

As you can see from one of the above entries, some of the rules surrounding opting out of yellow pages can be poorly-understood by those involved, adding to friction surrounding the issue. An apartment landlord opted-out, but was surprised to still receive deliveries, and a YPG representative explains that “due to privacy laws”, people cannot opt-out on behalf of others. Yet, it sounds as if his tenants aren’t picking up the books, so they likely end up remaining in the building’s common area, where the landlord is left with the duty of dealing with them.

From reporting on the recent DMS 2010 conference in August, I know that there are other parts of the rules in some states which will likely further confuse consumers to some degree, such as having opt-out expire for an address after three years or so.

The issue is quite a bit more complex than it would appear on the face of it. Internet and mobile usage, combined with increasing awareness of environmental issues have resulted in irritation from digital users about having directories dropped on their doorsteps. In large metro areas, the numbers of competing directories dropped further ratchets up the friction. These people are more and more exasperated with unwanted deliveries.

However, the percentage of users who might still want paper directories may still be much more substantial than the digerati comprehend. Isabelle Lascombe, Marketing Director of PagesJaunes in France, reported at DMS that 37% of their consumers use print directories — in rural areas, the percentage is higher, at 46%. Even so, PagesJaunes have moved more rapidly to converting to purely opt-in print directory deliveries, and has seen a much higher uptick in people wanting print than I would’ve guessed.

So, the yellow pages companies do indeed validly represent that a portion of the population continues to desire to receive the print YP books, and completely halting this would not represent the rights of those people. However, a number of statistics indicate this segment may continue to shrink, and the irritation level for those who don’t want yellow pages books keeps reaching the boiling-point. I think that the industry will need to follow PagesJaunes in France by moving to opt-in — and sooner than the industry really wants, particularly in the big cities and along the East Coast and West Coast of the United States.

The odd part of this is that there seems to’ve been more outrage against print yellow pages delivered on people’s doorsteps than against newspapers, which comprise a much larger volume of unwanted content in total. There are some cities now which will fine unwanted newspaper/circular delivery, or will allow property owners to put up signs disallowing newspapers. However, I don’t think there’s been the same level or degree of resistance to the local news yet.

Perhaps this is because yellow pages and white pages books weigh more than a typical newspaper? Perhaps it’s because digerati are more likely to read/use a newspaper delivered to them, and therefore perceive it as more of a nice “freebie”? Perhaps newspapers are more reticent to report upon negative news regarding themselves or their own industry? Or, maybe there’s also some element of latent resentment towards yellow pages from small businessmen who recall high ad fees of the past?

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