It's done. Finally. The Seattle City Council today approved legislation (.pdf) that, despite the promise of a lawsuit, will prohibit phone book companies from distributing yellow pages to those on a city-enforced opt-out list.
The council voted 8-1 to approve the 14th draft of the ordinance, with council member Jean Godden casting the only dissenting vote. The ordinance places a fee on companies distributing yellow pages in the city, which Godden characterized as "quite a slippery slope." Godden had said earlier that she was afraid the ordinance might set a precedence for other media, including newspapers.
The usual suspects showed up to protest—the Yellow Pages Association, Dex, et al—and released a statement immediately following the council vote saying that they would challenge the ordinance in court. Yellow Pages Association President Neg Norton told the council he was disappointed that the city had not picked the YPA-administered opt-out registry.
Under the new ordinance, which was sponsored by council member Mike O'Brien, yellow pages publishers would be fined up to $125 for distributing yellow pages to those who don't want them. They would also be charged a 14 cents fee for every phone distributed in the city to cover the registry cost and a $148 recycling fee for every ton of phone book dropped off in Seattle. Seattle Public Utilities estimates that 2 million yellow pages phone books are distributed in Seattle annually, which costs $350,000 to recycle.
"It's a great piece of free-market legislation, an important piece of environment legislation," said council president Richard Conlin.
Seattle's opt-out legislation is the first of its kind in the country and is expected to take place by April of next year. Although the ordinance had sparked concern among local business groups for being overly broad, they were addressed through amendments in the final version of the ordinance.