Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Delegate introduces two bills to fine unsolicited papers

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Maryland Del. Tanya T. Shewell has introduced two bills that would fine publishers $100 for every newspaper delivered to a home at which the resident has asked to stop delivery.

‘‘If people can say ‘do not call me,’ then people can say ‘do not drop papers on my lawn,’” said Shewell (R-Dist. 5A) of Westminster in an October interview.

Shewell filed House bills 356 and 357 on Jan. 24 to fine publishers for delivering unsolicited papers to Carroll County addresses or anywhere the state, respectively.

The bills are filed as consumer protection measures that require publications to place a toll-free number on the first or second page so residents can request delivery be stopped, Shewell said.

The bills state that the deliveries are a violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, and the papers practice unfair or deceptive trade.

The publisher would have seven days to comply with a stop-delivery request. If the publisher fails, he or she would be fined up to $100 per occurrence.

Residents would remain on the list for three years, at which time the paper could deliver again. Shewell said she chose three years because it is the average time a family lives in a house.

The bills were introduced Friday in the House of Delegates’ Economic Matters Committee. No discussion or hearing on the bills have been scheduled.

In order to reach the House floor, the bill must make it out of committee, where it can be amended. If the bill survives, it will go through the same process in the Senate. The bill is sent again to the House to approve changes to the bill before it reaches the governor.

Del. Susan W. Krebs (R-Dist. 9B) of Eldersburg is co-sponsoring the bill. When she campaigned for office in 2006, it was one of the top issues she heard — and saw — going door-to-door, she said.

‘‘I saw some houses had 10 papers piled up,” she said. ‘‘It was a litter problem.”

Krebs said she is not sure whether delivery has improved since then, but she hopes the bill will bring attention to the issue.

Shewell has said that her constituents’ complaints are mostly with The Baltimore Examiner and The Merchandiser.

Krebs said it’s not just the Examiner, which is a free paper that publishes Monday through Friday, that the residents in Eldersburg find problematic. Advertisement supplements are also thrown out as well, she said.

‘‘I’m hoping we can find a way, publicly, to stop these papers,” she said.

The Gazette delivers to homes unsolicited in its circulation area, a practice the industry refers to as total market coverage, once a week. It also maintains a ‘‘do-not-deliver” list.

People can call circulation at 301-670-7530 to stop delivery.