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June 29, 2016, 1:44 p.m.
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Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney has said he is “not happy” with waste collector Greyhound after the company moved to automatically transfer customers to pay-by-weight bin charges on July 1st unless they actively opt out of the plan.
The company, which services 250,000 customers in Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council, is at odds with competitors who will keep customers on current price plans unless they positively opt for pay-by-weight.
Pay-by-weight was due to begin on July 1st after then minister for the environment Alan Kelly introduced a statutory instrument, which is legislation that does not need to pass through the Oireachtas and need only be signed by the relevant minister.
But earlier this month, Mr Coveney and the waste industry agreed to freeze the introduction of pay-by-weight charges for 12 months, amid fears they would lead to a dramatic increase in charges for some customers.
At the end of the 12-month period, the Government is to review the situation and decide on the roll out of pay-by-weight, as well as regulation and oversight in the sector.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Coveney said he was “not happy” about Greyhound’s move to implement an opt-out system.
“What Greyhound had been advocating for was the opportunity for customers to opt in to pay-by-weight, if that’s what customers were looking for,” he said.
“By the end of December, all companies will have to offer their clients an opt-in option for pay-by-weight if that’s what their customers choose, and there’ll also be dual billing after January 1st to actually show how people can make financial gains by switching over to pay-by-weight and managing their weight more effectively.
“So I am surprised Greyhound are effectively asking people to opt out of that switch over. That is not what was agreed and we’ll be speaking to Greyhound in relation to that.”
Fianna Fáil spokesman on local government Barry Cowen called on Mr Coveney to explore the option of revoking Greyhound’s licence “if it continues to hike up standard charges for new customers”.
“The move by Greyhound to hike up standard charges for new customers is unacceptable and should not be tolerated,” he said.
“The company appears intent on making it as difficult as possible for their customers to remain on a fixed-charge plan by insisting that they make contact with them to opt out of the pay-by-weight system.”
Mr Cowen added he was “gravely concerned” by reports that new customers who want to switch to Greyhound are only being offered “vastly inflated flat charges”.
“This type of price gouging is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated,” he said. “It is extremely unfair and will cause unnecessary financial stress for many families across Dublin.
“I have spoken with Minister Simon Coveney and have urged him to meet with the company and explore what action can be taken. It may be possible to revoke the company’s licence if it continues with this sharp practice.
“I hope the Minister will move quickly on this issue. The 12-month price freeze was designed to ensure that customers would not be unfairly charged, and we must ensure that all providers play fair and not abuse the system.”
A request for comment from Greyhound in relation to the matter met with no response.