European Directories sends legal threat to guy who wants to make it easy to stop receiving phone books

Branko sez,

Everybody in the Netherlands still receives the paper phone guide once every year, whether they want to or not, even though in these days of Google and the Internet it is nothing but a vehicle for advertisements.

To help stop this form of harassment, a guy called Alexander Klöpping has registered a URL called (diephonebookdie) which redirects to the phone book cancellation form. In other words, if you want the phone book to be eliminated (‘die’) from your life, follow that link. (Actually don’t follow it, De Telefoongids are known to ignore your cancellation request anyway.)

Last Monday Klöpping received a threatening e-mail by the publishers of the phone book, a subsidiary of European Directories, that tells him he is engaged in trademark violation and that he must cease and desist.

Phone book publisher tries to silence critic with legal bullying (Thanks, Branko!)


    1. Reflexive contrarianism aside, Google doesn’t leave their ads in the form of 20 pounds of wasted pulp rotting on my doorstep 3 times a year.
      “Don’t be evil” is a great motto, but I’d settle for “don’t be an asshole” from more businesses.

        1. It’s not uncommon. Many areas are served by multiple competing directory services, on top of the “white pages” version that the phone companies produce (or “produced” – not sure if those are still made, actually).

          1.  I’m glad that my country’s got only one phone directory company (the former telecom monopoly, postal and telephone) and doesn’t deliver the books to the households anymore. They only send you a flyer which you can use to get a phone book at the next post office. In recent years I’ve seen more and more phonebooks staying on the huge pile in that office. Apparently nobody really wants them anymore.

        2. We did – as Jason notes, different providers – two different yellow pages and a white pages. Now that I think about it, that’s not including the two more local business directories.

          So 5 times a year, not three.As so many other cities have done, mine has eliminated that ridiculous nuisance littering.

        3. Not only that, here in Long Beach we sometimes get a call to see if the book has been delivered, and would we mind taking a survey? I’m on the DNC directory, and have notified all callers that I did not initiate any business with them, so they should not be calling me. They stopped after the first year.

    2. That is exactly the reason why they keep delivering those books: De Telefoongids missed the online advertisement take-off. (and they have to ensure to their paying advertisers that a lot of people have access to their advertisements)

  1. But Everybody in the Netherlands is so loveable. How could this happen? Are the telefoongidsvolk not located in the Netherlands or something? It’s the only rational explanation.

    1. Obviously the telefoongidsvolk are all immigrants and when Geert Wilders throws them out the Dutch will all become loveable once more.

      1. Geert Wilders is a recursive problem: assuming he’s right about throwing out people to make the country nicer, he should also be thrown out, at which point clearly he wouldn’t think the place got nicer after all.

  2. Streisand effect. I would have never known about diephonebookdie (not that it would be very useful to me living in the US) but I’m totally 100% behind it now. Guy should set up a donation link.

  3. Admittedly it’s going to be a difficult fight.  There seems to be no regulation on paper junk mail and they’re fighting against a company that profits from getting said junk mail to as many people as possible.

    That said, from my visits to Amsterdam I remember that they had a rather aesthetically unpleasing method for dealing with junk mail, whereby they had stickers on letter boxes stating whether they wanted to receive junk mail and or government based mailers (If I remember correctly).  I wonder if phone books don’t fall under this scheme?  Or maybe it’s something that only exists in Amsterdam?

    1. Those stickers are mentioned in the story: “including those of people that have indicated they want to receive no advertisements through the legally binding “ja-nee” and “nee-nee” stickers (yes-no and no-no).” Apparently the phone book guys just ignore them.

        1. In The Netherlands they’re freely isseud via the local government offices. Two versions: the “no no” variant means you don’t want to recieve any un-adressed mail. The “yes no” version means you do not want advertisement but do want to recieve the free local newspaper. It’s legally binding, ofcourse it’s rather difficult to complain against junkmail since there’s no return adress. But it does work most of the time.

    2. Phone books don’t arrive in the mailbox, so the sticker on the mailbox would not be binding on the phone book company. They could choose to respect it, but that would cut into their bottom line.

        1. A phone book doesn’t fit in the average Dutch mailbox so they have no choice but to leave them outside.

          1. Aren’t they getting smaller? The latest copy I have seen of the London Yellow Pages was about the size of an average novel. You could get half a dozen at least in most mailboxes.

        2. Of course they do. In Seattle, they’re dumped in the rain to rot. It doesn’t matter if anybody reads them, because the book publishers claim the delivered as “customers”.

  4. Whereas here, because I have opted out, AT&T calls me to confirm that they didn’t deliver a phonebook.  Invariably they deliver one two days after the phone call.

  5. You know, I find the phone book significantly more useful than Google. Recently I searched for television repair (my local city) on google. It recommended places 50 miles away. After 10 minutes of reading search results i was fed up. When I opened the yellow pages, I found a conveniently alphabetized list of places, many within 5 miles of my home. I’ve had other similar experiences.

    1. Good you you. The internet isn’t for everyone by any means. But does that mean that everyone should have giant, wasteful phonebooks shoved down their throats?

      A pallet of phone books gets dropped off at my office building every year, this year the pallet was picked up by the recycler’s the same day, untouched, and taken away for recycling, this is insanity.

    2. The cool thing is: they have a website too! The Dutch Yellowpages/De Telefoongids, at least. So there’s really no need to kill that many trees at all.

  6. Update:  as a result of Klöpping’s action, Dutch parliament has called for making the phone book opt-in.

  7. I always wondered why they didn’t have an option to receive the book on a CD. It would be much more useful (as it would be searchable), and I’m sure they could have unblockable pop-up or inline ads in it.

    1. It would also cost them less to produce. The idea behind the paper book is that it caters to those who aren’t that comfortable on computer, but that makes little sense. Age ranges have changed, and most people are now basically computer proficient. In fact, seniors get a lot of use out of social network sites! 

      As long as they set it up to be viewable at multiple sizes (for those with vision problems), and easily searchable, there’s no good reason for all the paper waste.

      If they were following their existing model, the ads would be prepaid inline ads, charged by size.

  8. Who cares?  Just get the phone book and throw it away.  How hard is that?  Do you really wanna get rid of the jobs involving the admin of these things, the graphic design, the printing and the delivery?  How hard is it to just chuck them out once or twice a year?

    1. It takes a vast amount of trees and polluting energy to produce huge stacks of things that mostly nobody uses anymore and then haul them around to be dumped on doorsteps.

    2. This single thing weighs as much as quite a sizable pile of other junk mail. I have no interest in volunteering to throw out other people’s crap because they seem so interested in generating crap.

      They can go on graphic designing and printing them if they really want to, as long as they don’t deliver them to me. Although to be honest, the printing kills an unnecessary amount of trees.

Comments are closed.