North Carolina church latest proxy in legal fight between Waste Connections and Rubicon
- The Back Creek Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC recently decided to switch from Waste Connections to Rubicon Global for collection services. When Waste Connections didn't remove its containers by a specified deadline of Oct. 24, the church filed a complaint and temporary restraining order. The containers were soon removed, without notice, prior to an Oct. 26 hearing in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Both parties eventually agreed to voluntary dismissal without prejudice on Oct. 27.
- Waste Connections disputes some details in Rubicon's characterization of the incident, but said this misses the larger picture. In a statement, a Waste Connections spokesperson said that by focusing on a "single customer interaction," Rubicon is trying to divert attention from lawsuits the company faces in Louisiana and Georgia. "Rubicon’s investors and customers should be alarmed by recent and forthcoming developments in these lawsuits, which depict a business culture that is out of control and flailing," the spokesperson wrote. "And coming on the heels of unflattering coverage in national business publications, it appears that Rubicon is desperate to turn attention away from its unlawful business practices."
- Rubicon countered with the following statement. "The only issue in this particular case is Waste Connections’ disgraceful treatment of Back Creek Presbyterian Church, indicating that even a small, non-profit place of worship isn't exempt from the tactics of harassment that this multi-billion dollar corporation continues to employ throughout the country when small businesses freely choose to change their waste services," wrote Michael Allegretti, senior vice president of policy and strategic initiatives at Rubicon.
Similar to a September case in Houston, which resulted in a temporary restraining order against Waste Connections, Rubicon is portraying the situation in Charlotte as another example of customers being penalized for switching service providers. Court documents include details about how the continued presence of Waste Connections' containers prevented Back Creek from fitting new ones, and the abrupt nature of their removal left the church without disposal options. The fact that Rubicon partner All Points Waste Service brought a replacement container later that same day was described as a sign of their responsive customer service.
This is one of many recent legal skirmishes between Rubicon and Waste Connections, as well as Republic Services, in multiple states. Other instances have involved Rubicon offering lower prices, and agreeing to pay liquidated damages, if a customer switches to their service. If the existing service provider didn't remove their containers within a desired timeframe, then Rubicon would have them towed. That practice has kept lawyers for both sides busy and led to an injunction in Louisiana that prevented Rubicon from towing any Waste Connections containers for 14 days after all outstanding payments had been received. Waste Connections has since said Rubicon is violating that injunction. A similar statewide injunction is also being sought in Texas for both Waste Connections and subsidiary Progressive Waste Solutions.
While these companies have been engaged in legal action since at least 2016, their mutual acrimony became more public this spring. After trading barbs at Waste Expo in May the situation exploded in June when Waste Connections alleged theft of trade secrets in Georgia following Rubicon's hiring of a former employee. That employee was later terminated and litigation is ongoing. The saga has continued with critical stories in publications such as Bloomberg, which Rubicon took issue with, and a series of veiled comments from each side. Making a dent in an industry where the majority of revenue is controlled by a small group of publicly traded companies is no simple task. Rubicon's public and assertive tactics have made the company a larger target for those it seeks to challenge, and have set the stage for plenty more legal action in the months ahead.
- Mecklenburg County Superior Court Notice of Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice
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