The following information is a précis of contributions made on the
FSB Discussion Forum (Small Business Issues/PHS Wastetech Ltd.)
between August 2007 and November 2011.
The information supplied by forum contributors has not been verified.
· PHS Wastetech is a large commercial waste management service operating throughout the UK.
· They either have taken over or also trade under the following guises (unverified and not exhaustive): Warner Howard, Shift It, 3b Waste Solutions, Clear Fast, Shred Easy, GB Nationwide, GW Butler, Dynamics, CLM Safety Ltd, Oak Hygiene (washrooms), Griffin Hygiene, Key Hygiene Limited. GB Nationwide, Personal Hygiene Services Ltd (Workplace Services) PHS Western Limited (Holding Company), PHS Allclear Limited Waste collection & disposal), All Water Systems Ltd (water dispensers), Karmaton Limited (washroom services), Watercompany International BV (water dispensers), PHS Services Ltd (holding company), PHS Group plc (holding company), PHS Holdings Ltd (holding company), PHS Investments Ltd (holding company), Teacrate Ltd (holding company), Teacrate Rentals Ltd (crate rentals), Mulberry Invest S.A (holding company), Servicios de Contenedores Higienicos Sanitarious S.A, Riverside Hygiene, Hygieco, FPS, Albany Washrooms, Indigo, whichhygiene.co.uk, nurserywastedisposal.co.uk, sanitarywaste.co.uk, sanitaryhygieneservices.co.uk, sanitarybins.com, scotlandhygieneservices.co.uk, northwaleshygieneservices.co.uk
· Members and non-members of the Federation of Small Businesses have been posting to a forum to highlight concerns they have over malpractices by PHS Wastetech. Concerns are individual and specifically unique, but do follow similar patterns and generally fall into six general categories (see next section).
· Rolling contract: Forum contributors have stated that PHS renew contractees from the anniversary date whether requested or not. Contractees have to give three months' notice according the terms and conditions. If you miss the three-month notice period, you are automatically tied in for a further 12-month period.
· Mis-selling of contract: Forum contributors have stated that they have been sold a particular service verbally, but the terms and conditions for the contract they receive differ greatly.
· Unclear small print: The small print makes reference to the following:
4.1 "PHS Wastetech reserves the right to subsequently increase the price and change the price structure of any item of service"
4.6 "PHS Wastetech reserves the right to charge the customer an annual Waste transfer note fee"
4.7 "PHS Wastetech reserves the right to change the price structure of any fixed price contract"
4.8 "PHS Wastetech reserves the right to charge the customer for any environmental and governmental changes to legislation that result in additional administrative costs"
If written as such, these charges do not specify incremental rates or when they will apply. PHS Wastetech claims that notification letters are sent. Forum contributors have complained that these notification letters are not received and believe they were never sent.
Forum contributors have also noted the type font being 2pt or 4pt and far too small to read comfortably.
· Charges are not reasonable: Forum contributors have noted that PHS will increase their collection and waste transfer charges at significant rates, often several times in a year, without prior warning. Forum contributors also note this happening particularly if a contractee tries to cancel a contract.
· Unnecessary charges: Forum contributors have noted they have been charged for an unnecessary Integrated Pollution Prevention And Control Audit. This relates to the disposal of chemical or hazardous waste only and contractees are advised to check their own situation with the environment agency.
In one case a judge ruled that charges for Waste Transfer Notices were illegal (unverified)
· Pile 'em high/knock 'em down: Contributors have complained of PHS applying excessive charges that the contractee believes to be unreasonable and excessive. This is more so when a contractee refuses to pay the additional charges. When court action is threatened, it is noted that PHS have then offered a settlement amount, which is less than the accumulated charges, but still more than what would be contractual or deemed reasonable. This is to try to prevent court action, whilst still claiming more than is rightfully owed.
· Seek advice from your FSB regional officer, the legal helpline or from Malcolm Harvey, FSB Brighton and Hove Branch Membership Secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
· A contract is a binding agreement and it is binding on both sides. Therefore, if PHS change the terms they could be in breach of contract.
· Keep a record of all letters sent. Send them by recorded delivery.
· Log dates and times of calls and keep phone records.
· Cancel any direct debits.
· Contact the Environmental Health and Council if you are charged for an Integrated Pollution Prevention Audit or Pre-Acceptance Audit.
· If a contractee has been billed for more than the contracted price and wishes to cancel, only pay the invoice up to the value of the contract, as the contractee believes it to be. (So if the contracted price is £25 and they bill for £40, pay the £25 and include a letter informing them that the additional £15 is in breach of contract)
· If going to court:
o Always ask for a breakdown of each invoice and what service you received for such a charge,
o Ensure that PHS show the dates and times of each waste collection
o If PHS does not send all the correct court documents by the deadline given the contractee can ask for the case to be struck out
o Prepare a bill of charges/log book of time spent
Other points to note:
· A number of forum contributors have either taken PHS to court, or have been taken to court by PHS, and have won (or partially won) their case. No forum contributor has cited losing a case against PHS Wastetech Ltd.
· Lord Justice Denning's Red Hand rule: In J Spurling v Bradshaw (1956), Lord Justice Denning stated, "I quite agree that the more unreasonable a clause is, the greater the notice which must be given of it. Some clauses, which I have seen, would need to be printed in red ink on the face of the document with a red hand pointing to it before the notice could be held to be sufficient." This comment is pertinent to the experiences of contractees with PHS Wastetech Ltd.