Alexandria, Virginia's Model Newspaper Delivery Law

This relates to a law to prevent litter caused by unwanted delivery of unsolicited free newspapers. Alexandria's Model Newspaper Delivery Law does not address subscriber services.

full copy of Alexandria City Code §9-14


Alexandria, Virginia

Alexandria is an independent city, meaning it is not part of another local jurisdiction (county) within the US state of Virginia (Virginia calls itself the "Commonwealth of Virginia".)

History

In response to over 100 complaints lodged with the Alexandria Office of Citizen Assistance, the Office submitted a "Do Not Deliver List" bill in June-06. That ordinance would have established a "Do Not Deliver" list to be maintained by the city. The bill raised First Amendment free speech issues, and was otherwise problematic. It would have also placed a burden on the Alexandria Gazette, a weekly that generally was not identified in complaints.

In March-09, after receiving "hundreds" of complaints, the City Manager's Office raised the issue before City Council a second time. The new bill, passed as Alexandria City Code §9-14 dropped the "Do Not Deliver" list, instead requiring that the newspaper itself maintain independent lists.

The logic is the same as the Federal "Do Not Call" list -- Telling every telemarketer to not call proved to be an exercise in futility. In the case of forced newspaper deliveries, there were a total of two papers, with only one generating almost all of the complaints.

The new proposal required that the newspaper maintain telephone, written and internet "Do Not Deliver" procedures.


Why This Was Needed

The complaints varied, but included refusal by one newspaper to comply with requests to stop delivery. Generally, requests were either ignored or in some cases double deliveries were made. In some cases, papers were allowed to pile up. Other abuses included using a "For Sale" sign in front of an obviously vacant house for target practice with the papers. There were also complaints of the papers being thrown on the sidewalks, right-of-way strips and in the streets. One homeowner, who apparently gave up, resorted to keeping the papers in a pile.

Provisions of Alexandria City Code §9-14

A publisher of an unsolicited publication shall provide reasonable methods to accept "no delivery" requests.
"including but not limited to, telephonic means, e-mail means and regular mail means"
§9-14 does not apply to temporary "stop delivery" requests.

Timely comply with requests to not deliver
"implement and utilize a system or procedure for tracking and executing a publisher's direction regarding requests for no delivery ..."

Provide a tracking reference to the person making the "no delivery" request
"implement and communicate to the requesting person a means of tracking requests"

"upon written request from the director of the office of citizen assistance ... provide the City of Alexandria with contact information for any applicable distributor to allow the city to follow up with that distributor on any complaint received by the city from a resident regarding delivery ... after making a request ..."

"... take any corrective measures requested by the City of Alexandria ..."

In making deliveries, use their best efforts to place publications in proximity to the entrances ... not be placed on streets, sidewalks, public rights-of-way, or other public property and shall not be distributed by placing them at intervals along a block ..."

Not dump unsolicited newspapers in multi-family buildings in excess of readership
"... placing several near the entrance to a multi-unit building, other than in direct relation to the number of publications requested by the occupants of the block or building ..."

If the publication can be located, the distributor thereof shall remove any publication delivered in violation of section 9-14-2(b)(2) within 24 hours following notice and demand by the owner or occupant [or] the director of the office of citizen assistance or designee.

How to Complain Regarding a Violation of Alexandria City Code §9-14

(skip to instructions to stop The Examiner)
(a) Any resident of the City of Alexandria wishing to make a complaint regarding delivery of an unsolicited newspaper in violation of this chapter to the property at which they reside or which they own shall provide the following information to the director of the office of citizen assistance or designee:
(1) the name of the requesting person;
(2) the address that was the subject of the request;
(3) the date of and method used to make the request;
(4) the tracking number or other reference information provided by the publisher in response to the request; and
(5) the name and publication date of the unsolicited publication that is the subject of the complaint.
(b) Any resident of the City of Alexandria wishing to make a complaint regarding a publisher's failure to provide a tracking number or other means of reference for a no delivery request in violation of section 9-14-2(a)(4) of this chapter shall provide the following information to the director of the office of citizen assistance or designee:
(1) name of the requesting person;
(2) the address that was the subject of the request;
(3) the date of and method used to make the request; and
(4) the name and publication date of the unsolicited publication that is the subject of the complaint.
Alexandria Office of Citizen Assistance:   703-746-4800

How to Request that The Examiner Not Deliver

At the time of this writing, The Washington Examiner was the only free daily newspaper widely distributed in Alexandria; hence there are no instructions at the present time for other newspapers.

Internet:

  1. Obtain a "throw-away" email address. (e.g., mailexpire.com, jetable.com, spamgourmet.com, mailinator.com. The "throw-away" address should be valid for at least a week. This is to receive the tracking number if they comply with the law and provide the number.)
  2. Logon to http://intranet.dcexaminer.com/examinerintranet/stopdeliveryreq.cfm
  3. If they provide a tracking number, write down the "tracking number" on your computer or otherwise save the communication.
Phone:
  1. Call 800-541-1223 (call from a payphone if you think they may be collecting phone numbers)
    main no. *67-1-202-903-2000 and ask for "Circulation"
  2. Write down the name of the person taking the call
  3. Request that the delivery be "permanently" stopped *
  4. Request a "tracking number" or other way to identify this call under the provisions of Alexandria City Code §9-14.   (If they hang up on you, just call back.)
  5. Write down the "tracking number" on your computer.
  6. If the deliveries continue (after 3 days**), call the Alexandria Office of Citizen Assistance, at 703-746-4800
*   §9-14 does not apply to temporary "stop delivery" requests.
** §9-14 does not provide for a 3-day waiting period.


Do Not Deliver for Other Papers

Alexandria has one new monthly paper.

They initially did not have a formal procedure to provide a tracking number or other reference system; however, they are very willing to comply with "do not deliver" requests, which makes all the difference! The only difficult part is trying to reach them. (If all else fails, try the advertising numbers.)


full copy of Alexandria City Code §9-14



Jurisdictions with No Newspaper Delivery Law

Most jurisdictions have littering, leafletting and dumping laws that are applicable; however, in the case of unsolicited newspapers, it is generally required to request that the newspaper discontinue the dumping. The problem is that they frequently deny receiving the request, in combination with their standard public excuses.
(Standard excuses in the industry are, "new delivery person or service", "developing a new system for addressing these complaints", "hadn't been brought this to the attention of the manager", and "the citizen hadn't talked to the right person". They sometimes claim "free speech" if they think someone is too stupid to understand the concept of an individual saying "no".)
If you lived a pure and unblemished life, the circulation will be willing to give you tracking number.

If the newspaper is unwilling to provide a tracking number, sending a Certified Mail letter requesting non-delivery is often the best way to prove that you sent the request. ("Certified mail" is US postal jargon for proof of mailing; "Registered" is insured mail.) This can be a simple request, or can express concerns, such as accumulated newspapers attracting burglars.

After sending the letter, it is a matter of either getting help from the local government or proceeding with direct court action. If you intend to obtain an injunction, sample D-I-Y forms are typically available in the form of domestic violence protective order filing documents. (Use these samples for the court pleading forms only; don't use the special attachments intended for domestic violence filings!)



First posted 29-Sep-09. Last revised 13-Mar-13.

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