David Slays Goliath-Times Two!

Local Haulers Expose Waste Giants

NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA—(Marketwire - June 18, 2009) 

Nanaimo Hauling, a small waste hauling company on Vancouver Island, has taken on two giant multinational firms - and won. It cost the owners tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, countless hours of time and immeasurable amounts of stress, but company president Derek Haarsma, says it was worth it.

The story of Waste Services (CA) Inc. (WSI) and Waste Management of Canada Corporation (WM) and their hold on the industry in the Cowichan Valley and the Nanaimo Regional District reads like a good conspiracy theory - and the Federal Government agreed. On June 16 the Competition Tribunal brought down its ruling that WSI and WM “hold a market share exceeding 80%… and that WSI and WM are engaged in similar anti-competitive contracting practices.”

In a press release dated June 16 the Competition Bureau Canada states, “WSI and WM were foreclosing competition by using long term contracts that locked in customers and included similar, and highly restrictive, terms such as automatic renewal clauses, liquidated damages (significant penalties for early contract termination) and rights of first refusal. These contracts resulted in substantially less competitive markets for commercial waste collection services in central Vancouver Island, leading to higher prices and reduced choice for businesses.”

It all began in May 2008 when Nanaimo resident and businessman Derek Haarsma and his partners Brain Legg and Joe Avaiki, founded Nanaimo Hauling Co. By October 2008, Haarsma was so frustrated he engaged a lawyer and called the Competition Bureau of Canada. Thirteen former WM and WSI customers also lodged complaints. Five investigators began to look into the issues that included threatening letters to customers who wanted to switch their services to Nanaimo Hauling from WM or WSI and contracts that customers had no recollection of signing.

Perhaps the most nefarious practice of both WM and WSI was presenting a page of terms and conditions to customers, which they initialled, only to discover later that the fine print was on the reverse side of the page - a page they had never seen and that included such stipulations as automatic renewal and liquidated damages - companies that wanted out of a contract were charged the balance of their contracted at 50 percent - in some cases this amounted to more than $10,000.

Throughout the protracted legal battle, Haarsma paid all legal costs for his customers and placed all the stress on his shoulders. “I couldn’t ask them to front the costs,” Haarsma says, noting that in 10 months he paid $70,000 in legal fees. “And I don’t like being bullied by competitors.”

For Nanaimo Hauling, the story has a happy ending. It has an even happier ending for businesses in the mid Vancouver Island area that now have fair choice for their waste hauling as well as choice about service and price. But many will take a long time to forget the threatening letters and the stress of the fight against two Goliaths.

Mitch Forrest, general manager of a Nanaimo restaurant who had a contract with WM, says his experience, when he wanted to switch companies, was “horrible.” “They became a nasty company,” he says. “They started pretending that they didn’t get our emails or calls. They tried to charge me $800 for a bin removal when they didn’t remove it. They’ve been sending me bills for months saying “pay this bill or we’ll take you to court because you refused to contact us. “I phoned them 20 or 30 times and no-body phoned back.”

On the other hand, he says his experience with Nanaimo Hauling is the direct opposite. “I feel like a customer again. They’re very nice people. They’re a local family and they do a better job. The drivers are polite and I haven’t had a single issue with them. I’m very happy for Nanaimo Hauling - they deserved to win.”

Published on http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/David-Slays-Goliath-Times-Two-1005901.htm