The significance of waste management services in society is constantly growing. In comparison with other essential services, the legal position of users of waste management services is unclear.
In recent years minimum requirements concerning consumer protection have been added to the Water Services Act and the Electricity Market Act, for example.
The point of departure has been that minimum requirements regarding such things as service interruptions and fair contract terms have been added to special Acts regarding services.
In its statement to a working group that was appointed by the Ministry of the Environment to evaluate the need to reform the Waste Act, the Finnish Consumer Agency has proposed that minimum requirements concerning consumer protection should be added to legislation.
The Consumer Agency is concerned that the effect of different ways of organizing waste management on service users' position and rights is unclear.
Even if the division between waste management services that fall within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act and those that are arranged by local authorities is clear on paper, practice has shown otherwise. Consumers, businesses and local authorities all have questions about appeal procedures, for example.
Local authorities' practices in arranging waste management services and billing customers also vary.
For instance, according to the Waste Act local authorities' waste charges can be broken down into handling, transport, eco, service and collection charges. The Act does not contain clear provisions regarding these different charges. The legality of eco charges, among other things, has been questioned from time to time.
Clear provisions concerning charges should be added to the Waste Act, as has been done in the case of the Water Services Act. Clarity and transparency would help make waste management charges more acceptable among consumers.
In the opinion of the Consumer Agency, the Waste Act should be reformed so that citizens are better informed of their rights and obligations in the midst of different ways of arranging waste management services.