The new Maryland Suburban Yellow Page directories contain two pages of up-to-date consumer information, buying tips and telephone numbers. Similar revisions are being considered for the Yellow Page directories that will be published next year for the District of Columbia and Virginia.
"We have added a lot of detail to the consumer information section that wasn't there before, including some examples," said Magnhild (Maggie) Pettersen, the consumer volunteer from the Maryland Citizens Consumer Council who worked with telephone company officials on revisions for the Maryland directory.
The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. distributes nearly 2 million Yellow Page directories in the Washington area, including 545,000 in the District, 695,000 in Maryland and 591,000 in Virginia.
Among tips listed in the new Maryland book for contracts and credit, Pettersen said, are such pointers as:
"Get all details and promises in writing. You may want to take the contract home and consider before signing -- don't be pressured. Remember: Not every contract has a 3-day 'cooling off' period during which you can cancel. Sign or place a deposit only if you understand and agree to the contract."
The guidelines for "licensed, certified or registered" caution that "a license alone does not guarantee good work or reliability; the company may only need to file a form and pay a fee to obtain a license."
Consumers are advised to ask several questions, such as "How does it the license, certificate or registration protect me as a consumer?"
Consumers who have a problem with a product or a service are urged to call, write or visit the business to find a solution. When that is not possible, then it is up to the consumer to take the matter to a consumer agency for help.
The consumer section contains an expanded list of agencies to contact in such cases.
Consumer information sections were first added to local Yellow Page directories five years ago, according to C&P representative Web Chamberlin.
He said many consumers had expressed concern that there should be a standard for the use of such words as bonded, insured, licensed and so forth, which typically appear in Yellow Page advertisements.
In addition to using those guidelines, C&P developed the consumer information pages to help consumers better understand what those words mean and what to look for with regard to warranties, bonds, licenses and so on, Chamberlin said.
"The fact that the services or products are listed in the Yellow Pages does not mean they are endorsed by the telephone company," he said. "And so it was felt that if we were going to establish standards for the terms, it would be important for the customers to understand what those terms mean."
Also, Chamberlin said, it was decided that the section should tell consumers where to turn for help when they have a problem.
The consumer information section, developed with the aid of local consumer groups, is on pages 2 and 3 of the Yellow Pages.