New York state leaders are following Vermont's lead. They're stepping in concerning what they call "restrictive practices" by the region's largest trash hauling company, Casella. Vermont has come to similar settlements in the past.
Eli Joseph owns Lucky's Mini-Mart in Morrisonville, New York. He pays $240 a month for Casella to empty his dumpster once a week.
“Service is fine,” said Eli Joseph. “I [have] no problem with the service. If I want to switch to a different company, it should be no problem."
After our interview, Eli says he called Casella, and asked to cancel his service so he could get a better deal. He says Casella offered to match the competitor's prices.
That is one of the reasons the New York Attorney General's Office is requesting changes to Casella's procedures.
The AG argues the company's practices have discouraged competition in the North Country, specifically Clinton and Franklin counties.
“Our customers do have choice. They do have flexibility,” said Casella spokesperson, Joe Fusco. “The only discomfort the Attorney General had was given that we have a strong competitive position, they were not comfortable with the duration of our contracts or the conditions for termination."
Right now, Casella is the largest and most times, only waste hauling firm for commercial dumpsters in the North Country, including all of Plattsburgh.
A settlement announced Monday between the state and Casella will make changes effective immediately.
Going forward, commercial dumpster customers will see their initial contracts reduced from 5 years to no more than 2.
Casella also agreed to significantly lower its penalty for early termination.
Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon isn't sure the settlement will change anything. “It's a specialized piece of equipment that it takes to raise and lower the dumpsters,” explained Mayor Jim Calnon (I/R – Plattsburgh). “Those trucks are fairly expensive so I'm not sure if competition will come out of this just because it's a small enough market that if you start to divide it up it may not be economically feasible for anybody."
“This is not about monopoly. This is not about illegal or wrong behavior at all. It's simply about trying to ensure a competitive market," said Joe Fusco, with Casella.
Casella must also pay the state $100,000.
You may notice big waste containers in the North Country that do not appear to be Casella.
They are, in fact, containers from former companies Casella has since acquired.
With this settlement, Casella must now notify the Attorney General's Office if and when it acquires smaller companies.