More cases of residents being overcharged for their garbage collection service have emerged after the Gazette’s report last week of a Katoomba man who had been paying for three separate services since he bought his house nine years ago.
Leura retiree John Mann discovered last June that he has paid for two services for at least 20 years.
Like Katoomba’s Douglas Blake, Mr Mann was alerted to the additional services when his new green bins arrived.
When he received two rather than one, he went to council to get them to collect the unnecessary one.
“They said, ‘have you got two services?’ I said ‘no’. They said maybe it was the previous owner. But I told them I’ve been here for 40 years,” Mr Mann said.
When Mr Mann took a closer look at his rates notice, it did say “2” garbage services. But he thought that represented the number of bins he had – one for garbage and one for recycling.
Council has agreed to reimburse him for two years of overpayments, a total of $727. Mr Mann, whose request for a check of records revealed 20 years overcharging, believed that left him about $5,000 out of pocket.
He pursued the matter with the Ombudsman and with the Office of Local Government, neither of which could help.
Mr Mann said council staff told him it was his responsibility to check his rates notice within 30 days.
“They said we don’t have to give you two years [reimbursement] – we only have to give you one, and I said but if I owed you the money you would want it all, plus compound interest,” Mr Mann said.
“I’m not happy about this. Obviously they’ve just dug their heels in and don’t want to make full recompense to anybody.”
He will consider seeking legal advice for a class action if others also came forward.
A third resident – Eric Brown from Wentworth Falls – had the same experience and has been paying for two services for nine years. He was credited about $750 instead of the $3,500 which he had overpaid. (See Letters, page 22.)
It is not known exactly how many ratepayers have been overcharged, although it was noted that 33 complaints were made between July 1 and October 31 last year, to a total value of $104,106.
At the December meeting, councillors supported Cr Kerry Brown’s motion that staff investigate the value of claims of overpayments particularly by ratepayers on low incomes or pensions, the feasibility of fully reimbursing them and what mechanisms there are, or should be, to prevent overcharging in future.
A council spokeswoman couldn’t answer further Gazette questions because staff were preparing that report.