Complaints have been mounting in recent weeks over the fluctuations and increases in trash collection fees in Phnom Penh which now vary depending on whether the garbage comes from a Cambodian, an expatriate or a business owner.
The privately-owned firm Cintri bases its trash-collection prices not on the amount of garbage collected but on the type and location of households and businesses—a practice that, some customers said this week, leads to arbitrary fee setting.
According to Pho Phallkunn, Cintri’s customer relations manager, Cintri receives information such as names and addresses from Electricite du Cambodge, which issues combined power and garbage-collection bills.
With that information, some 90 Cintri “informants” gather data to divide all households and businesses into nearly 100 different categories of garbage collection fees.
According to Cintri’s tariffs list, a Cambodian household on a ground floor must pay $1 per month or more depending on the street where they live. Foreigners pay $10 if they live in apartments and $20 in houses. A large bar or nightclub will be charged $100.
“The tariff structure is not based on the volume of garbage you produce—it is based on the business’ operation and the source of income,” Pho Phallkunn said.
“If you are running a hotel, your tariff is high because your level of income is high,” he said, adding that the current system was the only possible way to get trash-collection done.
“If I use electricity a lot, I have to pay a lot more money. But we produce little garbage, why should we pay a lot?” asked Chim Kmao, a staff member of the Chinese-language newspaper Commercial News.
A vendor at Tuol Tumpong market, who asked not to be named, said Wednesday that Cintri informants had her home confused with a business.
“I’m a vendor and I don’t run a business at home. I just sometimes store my goods at home because the shop at the market is too small,” she said. “I don’t really understand how Cintri just points [and decides] this home pays $10 and that home pays $20 or even more.”
After seeing the garbage bill for his law firm increase from $1 to $5, then $10 and finally $25 per month, lawyer Benson Samay wrote to Cintri, claiming that the company had illegally tried to make him pay the $25 bill.
“I have never signed an agreement with Cintri or any agreement to pay $25 per month,” he wrote.
Benson Samay and Cintri eventually settled on $15 per month.
Before he sent his letter to the company, Benson Samay said that a Cintri representative had told him his electricity would be cut off if he did not pay the $25 fee.
Talking about Cintri’s practice of cutting slow payers’ electricity—a step that now requires City Hall’s approval—Pho Phallkunn said the practice is still not common.
“We have operated for nearly three years and only 825 clients have been suspended,” he said.
“It is not our business to fight with our clients but to keep the city clean.”