The Attorney General?s Office opened its antitrust investigation after receiving complaints that WMM?s contracts with commercial customers (including restaurants, offices, retail, and other businesses) contained unfair terms that made it extremely difficult for customers to cancel, even at the end of a contract term. For example, WMM required commercial customers to send a cancellation notice to the company by certified mail, and the notice had to arrive between 90 and 180 days before the expiration of an initial three-year contract term. If the notice was not received within this window, the contract would automatically renew for an additional term. The Attorney General?s investigation found that these and other contract terms helped WMM maintain its monopoly power and created an obstacle for other waste haulers trying to enter or expand in the Mankato area.
Under the terms of the settlement, WMM agreed to enter into an Assurance of Discontinuance and change its
commercial waste hauling contracts. Specifically, WMM agreed to: change the initial length of its commercial contracts
from three years to two years; provide a written renewal notice to commercial customers at least 90 days before the
renewal date to inform them that their contracts will automatically renew if they do not cancel before a specified date; allow commercial customers to send their cancellation notice by fax or certified mail; and provide a prominent notice to customers that the contract will automatically renew unless the customer cancels in a timely manner. The agreement today is modeled after a 1996 agreement between the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice and large commercial waste hauling companies, including Waste Management, Inc., that allegedly used similarly restrictive
contracts to stifle competition and enhance their market power. The settlement was filed in Ramsey County District Court and is subject to court approval.