PLATTSBURGH — The State Attorney General’s Office says Casella Waste Systems “unlawfully restrained competition” in both the North Country and areas of the Southern Tier.
A settlement has been reached with the waste hauler, it said in a press release, aimed to correct “restrictive contracting practices, combined with its market dominance and pattern of acquisitions of smaller competitors.”
Casella spokesman Joe Fusco told the Press-Republican on Monday that there was nothing legally wrong with the company’s contracts, but they agreed to modify them to resolve the concerns voiced by the Attorney General’s Office.
“We agreed to sit down with them and voluntarily change the terms of our contracts,” he said.
‘ONE SET OF RULES’
The contracts, which made Casella exclusive provider of all customers’ waste-hauling services for as long as five years, involve collection and disposal of solid waste from dumpsters.
“Customers faced severe consequences for early cancellation of the contract, due to provisions requiring that they pay Casella an amount equal to six times their monthly bill upon early termination,” the release said.
The contracts also granted Casella the right to match any competitor’s offer, it said, “further discouraging competitors from bidding on the business.”
The Attorney General’s Office said fixed costs in the waste-hauling business are high enough that potential competitors must secure enough customers and route density to offer comparable prices and service.
That was made extremely difficult due to Casella’s business practices, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in the release.
“There must be one set of rules for everyone, especially companies that provide essential services,” he said. “By fighting for a level playing field in our state’s waste-hauling industry, we can ensure New Yorkers receive the benefits of vigorous competition.”
‘DIDN’T ADMIT NOR DENY’
In the settlement agreement, Casella neither admitted or denied the findings of the Attorney General’s Office, while the Attorney General’s Office agreed to end its investigation.
The company agreed to offer existing customers new contracts that comply with the settlement terms, although customers may opt to continue under the existing contracts.
Casella agreed not to enroll customers in contracts for more than two years unless the person is notified in writing that the contract meets the other provisions of the settlement.
Early cancellation penalties in the first year of a contract are limited to three months’ fees and to one month’s fee after that.
In addition, the company agreed to pay the state $100,000.
The settlement is similar to ones Casella reached with Vermont in 2002 and 2011.
It applies to Upstate New York counties where Casella has the strongest market presence: Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung and Tompkins.
Email Dan Heath:email@example.com