A Tampa preschool alleges Waste Connections of Florida, Inc. has induced potential customers into signing contracts without disclosing the true intended costs of its waste hauling and management services.
The 21-page lawsuit claims the defendant is among a contingent of companies who “take advantage of their position” given the necessity of waste hauling and management services by blindsiding customers with “unconscionable and self-serving contractual provisions in the middle of fine print form contracts,” including penalties should a customer terminate a contract before its lengthy term expires.
The breach-of-contract suit alleges Waste Connections, after it begins a relationship with a customer, will “cram the customer with fee increases” that over time swell to massive overcharges. According to the lawsuit, Waste Connections engages in this type of conduct “because such increases are usually not noticed by customers.”
Even if a customer does catch the gradual price increases, they are left with the choice to either pay the increased fees or terminate their contract with Waste Connections and pay early termination penalties, the filing says.
The lawsuit moreover alleges the fine-print terms in Waste Connections’ contracts are designed to “backtrack” from the fees and rates agreed upon and already reviewed and approved by customers. Per the case, Waste Connections essentially affords itself the ability to increase a customer’s fees whenever and to whatever amount it desires.
“Such provisions lack mutuality, are invalid exculpatory clauses, are unconscionable, and are otherwise unenforceable,” the case asserts, hedging that should the plaintiff’s breach of contract claims be inapplicable because Waste Connections’ form contracts are unenforceable, the defendant’s allegedly improper fee collection would nevertheless constitute unjust enrichment.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was presented in October 2013 with a Waste Connections customer service agreement “in tiny and blurred font, rending parts of the contract illegible.” Per the suit, the contract provided for pick-up services for a two-yard waste container twice per week for a total monthly cost of $84. By the following February, the plaintiff’s price was increased by nearly 20 percent, the case claims. By September 2020, the plaintiff’s monthly waste service and disposal charge amounted to nearly $370, the lawsuit relays.
The terms of the defendant’s service contract are described in the complaint as presented in a “boilerplate form that is not negotiable” and represent “unilateral, underhanded efforts” by Waste Connections to lock customers in for many years.
“Describing the Terms as ‘fine print’ is an understatement,” the plaintiff says. “The Terms consist of dense, single-spaced font that is virtually unreadable to the naked eye. Even if customers could read and understand the Terms, Defendant would not negotiate. They are a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”
Buried within the contracts are provisions that describe ways in which the agreed-upon charges can automatically increase both with and without advance notice, according to the suit. Moreover, Waste Connections allegedly includes in its contracts provisions for liquidated damages and indemnity that the lawsuit says work as tools to “discourage customers that have been subjected to massive price hikes from terminating their relationships with Defendant.”
With regard to the plaintiff’s alleged price hikes, the case claims Waste Connections “provided no notice in explaining its fee increase or new charges,” and the preschool thus had no opportunity to object to them.
The lawsuit looks to represent all Waste Connections customers who were allegedly assessed rates or fees in excess of the initial contracted-for amounts.
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