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Massage Business Loses Suit Over Yellow Pages Ad

July 01, 1999|ROBIN FIELDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County Small Claims Court judge this week rejected StressBusters Massage Co.'s $5,000 claim against Pacific Bell Directory, ruling the Yellow Pages publisher's contracts allow it to edit ads as it sees fit.

StressBusters, a Laguna Hills massage firm that specializes in treating infants and pregnant women, sued after Pacific Bell refused to print its Web address in its ad.

The publisher installed a policy this year identifying six business categories for which it will not print e-mail or Web site addresses, massage among them. Its concern: that the sites could provide links to pornographic material.

StressBusters owners Mikki and Michael Anderson argued that Pacific Bell had stigmatized them by grouping them with escort services, adult entertainers and "recreational" massage companies that feature hot oil rubs and discreet billing.

The Andersons also said that the Yellow Pages publisher should have mentioned its new Web-address policy before the tiny firm bought a computer and hired a Web master to handle site traffic it expected its ad to generate.

But the fine print in Pacific Bell's contract allows the publisher near-total control of what appears in its phone books, the judge decided.

Pacific Bell Directory executives did not return calls on the ruling.

The Andersons took the loss philosophically.

"We got our day in court, and we feel we helped make the public aware about this," Mikki Anderson said.

The couple may switch their ads to another phone book, even though Pacific Bell is the state's largest Yellow Pages publisher and dominates the Southern California market.

"At least it would be more in line with our principles," Anderson said.

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