Opt-in trial sees Auckland White Pages distribution fall from 494,000 to 21,000

RIGHT: Although the Yellow Pages are not part of the opt-in trial, a distribution agent did not push the point when he arrived at NBR Towers. He asked how many were wanted (the answer: two copies) then hauled away.

An opt-in trial has seen only a handful of Aucklanders sign up to receive the White Pages.

Last year, Yellow Pages Group distributed 494,000 copies of the hardcopy phone directory.

This year, under an opt-in system approved by the government in March, just 21,000 copies will be distributed.

Will people also get the chance to opt out of the Yellow Pages. A spokeswoman for the Yellow Pages Group (which publishes both directories) tells NBR ONLINE,  "At this stage, we will look at how Auckland residential opt-in goes and apply those learnings to the other books." Futher programmes may be opt-in, or opt-out.

“Given a choice, the vast majority of Aucklanders appear comfortable with finding the information they need electronically, and do not require a printed directory,” ICT Minister Amy Adams says.

An alternative reading would be few inhabitants of the super city were aware of the opt-in programme. Either way, anecdotal evidence suggests few will miss the door stop directory.

One person who tried to opt-in to the White Pages told NBR it wasn't easy. She phoned Yellow Pages Group, but was told the opt-in process had to be onliine. She found the online form asked a number of what she considered intrusive questions, including asking her to supply her email.

Green MP Gareth Hughes is pushing for the opt-in arrangement to be extended to the Yellow Pages directory as well. There was no immediate word on that front. Regardless, the Yellow Pages Group seems to be taking a light-handed approach to distribution, if its flying visit to NBR Towers (above) is anything to go by.

And now some numbers
“This means a saving that is equivalent to more than 300 tonnes of paper just by making the most of technology and doing things smarter. Indications are that if the unwanted phonebooks were stacked on top of each other, the pile could be nearly 10km high,” Ms Adams says of the opt-in programme.

The pilot scheme was set-up following a survey commissioned by Yellow. The survey showed that 75 per cent of Auckland residents agreed there should be a choice to receive the White Pages phone books.

The results of the Auckland trial will feed into the review of the Telecommunications Service Obligations (TSO), Ms Adams says.

The TSO includes an obligation dating back to 1997 for a printed copy of the relevant regional White Pages directory to be delivered free of charge to every residence in New Zealand with a phone line.

More than 1.3 million households are covered by the TSO.

“One of the questions the review will need to ask is whether this requirement is still appropriate, given changing technology and the way people access information.

“The Auckland results suggest that giving people a choice about whether or not to receive a printed residential phone directory may be an option for other parts of New Zealand.”

There will be an opportunity for public submissions on this issue as part of the TSO review. A discussion document is due to be published in the near future.

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