Beware Waste Management

By Phil Trubey

February 24, 2016

Let me you ask you a question: Would you sign a contract with a company that provides an essential service, but has a minimum three-year term, auto renews for an additional three years at a time, cannot be terminated except at the end of these auto-renewing, three-year terms, and where the price can be (and will be) arbitrarily raised by the company with no recourse?

In a nutshell, that’s the current Waste Management contract. Actually it’s worse. They also have a liquidated damages clause and a right of first refusal, whereby you have to give them the ability to counter any competitor’s offer first before terminating the contract.

I discovered all this when they pressured me to “renew” my contract for two three-yard dumpsters that they collect every week. They were going to give me an $80/month discount if I renewed. I decided to call their main competitor in Rancho Santa Fe, EDCO and found that EDCO would charge almost half the amount of money I was currently paying to Waste Management.

That $80 discount didn’t look so great after that, especially when I read my existing and new Waste Management contracts. My current contract had one-year auto renewals, and the new one, three-year auto renewals. Both with that cute feature whereby they can raise rates anytime they feel like it and you are stuck paying it. Indeed, in the last three years they had raised my rate by 57%.

I did a little bit of research and found that the US Department of Justice Anti-Trust division had enjoined Waste Management ten years ago from locking in customers with these long-term contracts. Unfortunately, the order was only applicable to four states and California was not one of them.

So, I recently requested termination of my contract – which must be sent by registered mail, return receipt requested – and assuming I read the contract correctly (requiring a lawyer to stop trash collection is a bit much, no?) I might be paying a lot less for trash collection come July. 

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