Complaints private firm dominating collection of city refuse

Sat, Jan 21, 2012, 00:00

THE COMPETITION Authority is investigating complaints about the new dominance of private waste firms in Dublin following the transfer of the city council’s household bin collection service to Greyhound.

It said it has received a number of complaints in recent days from former council customers who have not been able to obtain a bin-collection service from any waste firm other than Greyhound.

A spokeswoman for the Competition Authority said it was investigating whether a provision had been included in the contract between the council and Greyhound which in some way was blocking the entry of competitors, or if Greyhound had reached agreement with its rivals that they would not compete at present.

“It is not permissible to engage in market-sharing or to divide up the city in some way. At the moment we are information gathering to establish exactly what has happened,” the spokesman said.

Dublin City Council transferred its household bins service to Greyhound last Monday following a sale agreed last December.

Assistant city manager Séamus Lyons said there had been problems with the handover and the council had received “numerous” complaints from householders this week that their bins were not collected. However, when these complaints were passed to Greyhound they were swiftly rectified.

Former council customers are under no obligation to sign up to Greyhound, but customers who tried to change said they have not been able to find another provider to take their bins despite 11 companies currently holding domestic waste-collection permits to operate in the city council area.

Fine Gael councillor Mary O’Shea, who represents the central area of the city, said a number of constituents had been told by other firms they were not prepared to operate in what was Greyhound’s area.

“Several constituents have said other waste providers told them the city belongs to Greyhound, or it was Greyhound’s ‘territory’. It makes a nonsense of the idea that competition in the private sector would bring prices down.”

A spokesman for Greyhound said customers were free to change to another provider at any time, but would not be refunded their annual standing charge.

The company this week reversed a decision requiring the standing charge of €100, or €80 for those with a small bin, to be paid in full within 30 days of January 16th, and will now allow payment in two equal instalments, the first by February 15th and remainder by July 1st.

The spokesman said Greyhound had yet to decide if a customer cancelling the service before July 1st would be required to pay the second instalment.

Dublin City Council insisted there was no provision in the contract that would preclude competition.

Panda, which operates waste collection in Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and is one of the few private firms to have already won business from the council, with about 2,000 existing city-based customers, said it was not taking on any new customers at present.

Greenstar, which also collects bins in Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, said it was not operating in the city at the moment but was “actively considering” entry into the market.

“It’s a challenging market. The council was running the service at a loss and Greyhound have agreed to maintain those prices for six months, but we won’t necessarily wait until July before we make a move,” said Jerry Dempsey of Greenstar.

Oxigen, which does not operate a domestic refuse collection service in the Dublin area, said it would offer a service to former council customers. It is offering three options: €20 a month for a fortnightly black and green bin collection; an annual charge of €60 plus €8.85 per collection; or €14 per collection.