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Thursday 28 August 2014

Bin collectors face €2,000 fines for poor service

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan

BIN collectors face stiff fines and the loss of their licence if they fail to provide good service and make it difficult for customers to switch to competitors.

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Environment Minister Phil Hogan plans to force companies to implement customer charters which will be put on a legal basis for the first time, the Irish Independent has learned.

It means that if waste management firms fail to meet strict criteria such as collecting waste in a timely manner and allowing customers to switch suppliers with the minimum of fuss, they can be fined up to €2,000.

Repeated breaches of the charter will result in the firm's waste licence being reviewed, and could result in it being revoked.

The regulations come amid concern of "unfair or unacceptable treatment" of customers, including those wishing to transfer to alternative suppliers being "badly treated", sources said. There is also a lack of clarity about pricing, with concerns about customers being locked into lengthy contracts. The move to regulate follows a public consultation on how the waste system operates, with among the main concerns identified including a lack of enforcement of existing rules and a requirement for tougher penalties for companies which failed to meet their obligations.

The minister plans to set out what must be in the charters, meaning they will be placed on a statutory basis. The move is expected in the coming months.

"A central plank of the new arrangements will be the establishment of customer charters on a statutory basis," a spokesman for the Department of the Environment said.

"A significant number of collectors have already introduced charters on a non-statutory basis. These generally provide an outline for customers of the levels of service they can expect to receive," he said.

"However, it would appear that some collectors have responded to the letter rather than the spirit that a proper customer charter should deliver. In other words, posting a customer charter on a website and ticking a box seems to be as far as some collectors have gone."

The changes include amending legislation requiring that a "proper" customer charter is in place before a collection permit is approved. The form and content of the charter will be prescribed in regulations, to ensure they have "purpose and clout". Existing permit-holders must have the charter in place when their licence is renewed, typically every two years. It will affect all waste collectors, both commercial and domestic.

The minister also announced the establishment of two working groups to recommend how best to tackle the illegal dumping of tyres and vehicles.

The Irish Independent has previously revealed that motorists will be hit with a levy when they purchase a vehicle or new tyres, which will help fund safe disposal. The changes will be announced later this year when the working groups have reported.

Changes will also be introduced in how local authorities tackle illegal dumping, with three 'lead' authorities charged with enforcing the law and setting out priorities on a regional basis. Currently, each local authority fulfils these functions.

The three lead authorities will obtain and share legal advice on waste enforcement issues, reducing legal bills, and will also assist individual councils in taking cases.

This could include temporarily assigning experts from one local authority to another to tackle a specific issue, for example the illegal dumping of old vehicles.

Irish Independent

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