Dust-up with the dustmen

Consumer counsel
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The Independent Online
Q: Is there one law for me and one for the dustmen? I forgot to move my bin three yards to the edge of our property, and they did not take my rubbish. I asked why; they said they could not trespass on my property as their company is not insured to do so.

So why, when they replace the bin, do they always put it several feet inside my property? And what rule are they following when they put my neighbour's bin in my drive, behind my car, so I have to move it before I can drive off? The council said I could fill in a form and it would arrange for my neighbour's bin to be moved off my property within 24 hours. I don't see how that will stop the dustmen doing the same thing next week. Any ideas?

A: I think your dustmen have a warped sense of humour. Your council's rule is that the bin must be emptied if it is on the border of your property, but that bin-men do not have to pick it up if that means going on your property (unless a special arrangement has been agreed). It has nothing to do with trespassing, unless you have said you do not want them on your property, nor with insurance or the fact that the service has been contracted out.

Why the dustmen put your neighbour's bin behind your car is anyone's guess, but they should return it empty to the same place they got it from. If they do not, you or your neighbour are entitled to get things put right.

Ring the council's complaints department. If you get nowhere, ask for a senior person in complaints who can help you pursue it.

The next step would be a letter to the director of the appropriate section (environmental services in your case) and the chief executive and/or your local councillor. Council officials are often obliged to respond to a complaint within a set number of days.

'Consumer Counsel' appears on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your problems to Judith Gubbay, Features, Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2451. Answers will appear on the page only.