12 On Your Side: Local business owner upset over contract

By: Elizabeth Owens Email
By: Elizabeth Owens Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The owner of a local business is upset with another company after reviewing her contract and books.

Debra Niederhofer is the owner of Venture Auto Sales in Augusta.

"When you're a small business owner, you watch everything, and I didn't," Niederhofer said.

The car lot owner signed a contract with Waste Management in 2008.

"I guess I should have read the contract a little more closely," Neiderhofer said.

The contract was a three-year deal in a locked in price of $55 month.

"When I got October bill, which was a week ago, I got really angry then when it went up to $80," she said.

She told Waste Management she no longer wanted their service since her bill went up. She believed her contract expired last year and that she was now under a month-to-month deal.

"I called Waste Management and said, 'OK, go ahead and come get your can, I'm done, it's over with,' and they said, 'No, it's not done, you have a contract,' and they proceeded to send me a copy of my contract," she said.

Neiderhofer says she missed reading a clause buried in the second page of her contact four years ago. The clause is an automatic renewal with Waste Management. Waste Management's new contracts now list the automatic renewal more clearly right above where you sign.

"Frustrated. Very frustrated," Niederhofer admitted.

She now wants out of her renewed contract but it comes at a price. She's got to pay three months penalty to get out.

"The way the economy is every penny is important," she said.

Waste Management would not comment on the details of the billing except to say:
"We are sorry about the inconvenience this situation has caused Ms. Niederhofer, and we are diligently working with her to resolve the issue. Our priority at Waste Management is to provide all our customers with the most comprehensive and reliable service at the most economical price."

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