Seattle Phone Book Ban Draws Lawsuit From Publishers

Dex One Corp., SuperMedia and the Yellow Pages Association filed a suit on Monday to challenge a Seattle phone book ordinance on the grounds that it restricts publishers’ fundamental right to free speech.

The city ordinance (PDF) in question requires Yellow Pages publishers to pay a 14-cent fee on each commercial phone book delivered in the city. Publishers also face a $125 fine for delivering unwanted Yellow Pages to residents or businesses and an $100 annual licensing fee.

The phone book companies’ complaint asserts that the ordinance violates the First Amendment, which prohibits government from licensing or exercising advance approval of the press, from directing publishers what to publish and to whom they may communicate, and from assessing fees for the privilege of publishing.

The suit also claims that the Seattle ordinance unlawfully interferes with interstate commerce and violates the privacy rights of Seattle residents.

In towns all across America, it’s not unusual for multiple “free” phone books to land on residents doorsteps throughout the year. For most people, the books are a nuisance and an outdated resource given the speed and accuracy of internet search engines.
reports that up to 5 million trees are cut down each year to create just the white pages and that taxpayers are spending $17 million each year to have these books recycled.

Seattle officials estimated that about 1.5 million Yellow Pages are delivered to residents and businesses each year, creating 2,300 tons of paper that the city must recycle.

The phone companies insist that they are working to address this waste by creating a national consumer choice website at, but most supporters of the Seattle ordinace feel that this isn’t enough.

Instead, organizations like Ban The Phone Book say that consumers would prefer an “opt-in” program, where phone books would be delivered only if requested by residents.

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Image Credit: Flickr - recyclethis


LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you.

Joellen Gilchrist

re tony g's "for the love of all that is good...relax. Weather is cyclical in nature and no one is warming anything with a phone book..."

You read Care2 and are a global warming denier? That's hard to believe.

Tony g.
Tony g.4 years ago

Phone books are a great way for the local business community to connect with people who would like to do business with local merchants. The books are made from recycled paper and inks are made from vegetable oils. If you were a small business you would understand the value that yellow pages offer a small business person an financially affordable way to get in front of an audience who needs their products and services. Before anyone here starts talking about trees and environment make sure you know the real story behind your rhetoric and for the love of all that is good...relax. Weather is cyclical in nature an no one is warming anything with a phone book unless it is being burned in your fireplace.

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Anne H., this is very OLD NEWS and a dead issue. I'm amazed anyone is still commenting on it.

Anne H.
Anne H5 years ago

Freedom of speech, come on. They can publish whatever they want but they cannot leave it at my place passing on the responsibility/expense to me for disposal.

Opt In should be the standard. Times are changing and YP needs to change their angle.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman5 years ago


Lauren Miheli
Lauren Miheli6 years ago

Oops, I voted "yes" because I thought the question was "Like this story?"