Paul Melia: Astonishing that so many firms refused to publicly state their tariffs
Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30
Householders would do well to shop around when pay-by-weight bin charges come into force.
It is clear from the survey of waste collectors that savings are available, but it's noticeable that in some areas with competition in the market, particularly Dublin, prices aren't significantly lower than the rest of the country.
But what is telling is the number of companies which refused to set out their prices, despite each having numerous opportunities to respond. The Irish Independent contacted each company at least three times by phone and email. In some cases, companies were contacted five or more times.
Work on the survey began before the pay-by-weight system was deferred, and it seems astonishing that so many firms had yet to set their tariffs or refused to state publicly what they were.
More information about charges is needed before the system goes live in July next year, and a price comparison website - which is already in place for other utilities including gas and electricity - would be very useful.
It's worth noting that the figures presented today are based on the 'average' waste generated by 'average' households. Obviously, some produce more and others less, but the figures are a good indicator of how much families can expect to pay.
The figures for Panda, which operates pay-by-weight in Dun Laoghaire, assume that each bin is lifted every two weeks, which is why the figure appears high.
Other firms which appear more expensive suggest that across their customer bases, they represent the best value for money.
There are also offers if customers pay their bin charges in advance, and many companies said that prices will be revised before the system goes live.
Given the average charge is just shy of €360 a year, it means that households can expect to pay around €7.50 per week to dispose of their waste. That appears quite good value.
But one issue which the Government will have to address is the lack of waivers. The only local authority collecting waste is Kerry County Council. It offers a 50pc discount on the standing charge to pensioners reliant on the State pension. Addressing the concerns of low-income families could help take some of the sting out of the debate.
It's open to question as to whether a local authority could provide a cheaper service. A 2008 report from the Ombudsman noted a "wide" gap between the cheapest and most expensive, which ranged from €192 to €516. By comparison, private sector charges ranged from €200 to €450.
But the most important thing for the consumer right now is transparency. Firms which refuse to state how much they intend charging do themselves and their customers no favours. Unless this is addressed, a repeat of the waste charges controversy will come sooner rather than later.