Monday 19 March 2018

Households run up multi-million waste bill arrears

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

THOUSANDS of householders are in arrears on waste collection charges, with many having bin collections cut off as a result.

Consumers have racked up tens of millions of euro in unpaid waste charges, with many owing more than €1,000, a survey by the Irish Independent has found.

The problem is so acute in some areas that debt collection agencies have been enlisted to recover some of the money owed.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council Council (DLRCC) is the worst affected with almost €16m owed, though it said this was a 41pc reduction on the €27m owed in 2008.

"The council is actively pursuing the collection of this sum through in-house procedures and by engaging debt collection agencies," a spokesman for its finance department said.

Some 16,000 households were in arrears, of which 2,000 were paying by installment, while a large part of the money owed "may be written off" if customers applied for a waiver.

"Householders only apply for waivers when their account is forwarded to a debt collection agency or threatened with legal proceedings," the spokesman said.

To qualify for a waiver the householder would need to prove they have a low income.

Like many other councils, DLRCC exited the waste collection service last year, because of the losses and the number of householders switching to private alternatives.

Dublin City Council has 13,000 customers in arrears, owing a total of €13m.

Of these some 5,000 have entered plans to pay the arrears off, while 8,000 have had their services stopped because they refused to engage with the council about paying back what they owed, a spokesman said.

The Consumers' Association of Ireland said councils needed to be careful about how they handled arrears collection to avoid scaring people off or dumping their waste illegally.

South Dublin County Council said it was pursuing arrears from 3,000 householders who owed them around €1m.

Galway City Council said about €1.2m was owed by householders. A number have been blacklisted for bin collections. Cork County Council could not supply figures.

Waterford Council said it had no customers in arrears as it operates a prepay system.

Waste charges can add up to €300 a year but there is a vast difference in how they are calculated.

Irish Independent

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