Hard to compare waste bin bills to get best price

Householders are struggling to make meaningful comparisons on waste collection fees because of poor online or phone information from many of the dozens of firms in the market, a Government-backed monitor has warned.

The claim was made by the Price Monitoring Group (PMG), set up last year by Communications, Climate Change and Environment Minister Denis Naughten to track the costs of residential household waste collection during the phase-out of flat-rate services.

While there are more than 60 collectors of household waste in Ireland, PMG watches the fees charged by just 26 service providers. These are across 19 individual companies, some of which are monitored in more than one area.

The monthly report it produces is anonymised, but aims to give an overall picture of price trends. The latest analysis shows that costs remained broadly the same in March, despite advance notice by some providers of plans to begin charging for green bins or waste recycling this month.

However, the PMG also raised concerns about the difficulties it encountered establishing prices, there being no uniform price arrangement across all the service providers being monitored, many of which offer a variety of pricing packages.

However, the number of different services or charging arrangements offered by the 26 service providers last month was 39, down from 41 in February and from 45 in its first report in December.

The PMG has concerns about the time it takes some providers to disclose prices over the phone or on websites. It found staff sometimes struggled on the phone to effectively and efficiently fully disclose prices.

“This is a concern to the group, as it means that some consumers may be unable to compare the market for the best prices,” it said.

While it used company websites to confirm prices in circumstances where it could not be provided by phone, the group said not all companies provide prices online. It also pointed out that not all consumers will have internet access, or are comfortable with this mode of comparison.

“Therefore, it is important that all waste collection companies ensure staff... responsible for answering consumer calls or maintaining websites are adequately trained to provide this information quickly and efficiently,” its report said.

The group is chaired by independent consumer expert Frank Conway, with representatives from independent price monitoring group Shelfwatch, from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, and a Central Statistics Office statistician.

It was set up to seek a broad understanding of whether prices are fluctuating and, if so, by how much, rather than to provide a price-comparison service.

The number of pricing models remained at nine last month, but the system most likely to be offered across all service providers remains the charging of a set fee for each kg above an allowance, in addition to a basic service charge covering collection of waste up to a set weight.

However, the number of providers offering this service fell from 18 of the 26 monitored providers in February, to 16 last month. Within this category, pricing was almost entirely unchanged, except for a €3.86 increase to €29.86 for one firm’s monthly service charge, and a 7c drop to 18c in the excess charge per kg faced by customers of another.

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