By Jim Haigh, Keep Me Posted
In what is being hailed as a first of its kind triumph for American consumers, a prominent service provider will refund millions of dollars and halt the practice of charging fees to receive paper bills and statements.
The monumental victory was achieved recently when a federal Judge approved a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought by New York consumers against their trash hauler. In Heigl v. Waste Management of New York, LLC, the plaintiffs challenged the waste management company’s practice of charging customers a $6.50 fee to receive paper bills and statements.
The consequential settlement is the first time the provisions of Section 399-ZZZ, Prohibition of Certain Fee Charges (New York General Business Law) were invoked and challenged. Under the agreement, customers who were unfairly charged over four years – just to receive paper bills – will be entitled to a portion of the $2.7 million settlement, validating and reinforcing these important consumer protections under New York law.
This is an historic win for New York consumers, as well as a wakeup call to citizens and legislators in the 49 states without such basic protections on critical communications preferences. New York’s law should serve as a model for other states. And companies should take heed of this legal decision and voluntarily comply with the simple directives regardless of the laws in states where they do business: “No person, partnership, corporation, association or other business entity shall charge a consumer an additional rate or fee or a differential in the rate or fee associated with payment on an account when the consumer chooses to pay by United States mail or receive a paper billing statement.”
As a coalition of consumer groups, charities and businesses who are committed to protecting consumer access to paper-based communications at no extra charge, Keep Me Posted applauds this tremendous victory for consumers. This historic settlement is a major boost to KMP’s advocacy for the right of every consumer in North America to choose, free of charge, how they receive important information – on paper or electronically – from their service providers.