More than 17,000 people have been duped into signing up to Irish Water, despite returning packs to say they have no interest in the company.
Latest figures from the under-fire utility show that of the 2m households to receive registration packs, a small but significant number have effectively been fooled into agreeing to be charged.
A reported 870,000 people have sent the documents back to Irish Water, with the vast majority providing details allowing them to be signed up as a customer of the company.
However, 17,400 of the packs have been sent back without being filled in by protesters who are opposed to charges.
While this makes it clear those involved do not want to become Irish Water customers, the company has previously confirmed that any returned packs will result in the person or their address being automatically signed up.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, an Irish Water spokesperson said this was because anyone returning applications will be signed up “based on the information which they provide” — even if they simply send back a blank form.
Reacting to the situation Mandate trade union chief and Right2Water spokesperson, Brendan Ogle, said the move was a sign of the “increasingly desperate PR spin” being put on numbers by the company.
“I’ve been talking to people who work in Irish Water, and three types of packs are being returned: Those saying no consent, those that are opened but not filled out, and those that are filled out as Irish Water wants,” said Mr Ogle.
“Irish Water workers are being told to process all of them, and treat every form as a legitimate application.
“It is an absolutely bizarre situation, and we have been clearly told by our lawyers it will not stand up under Irish contract law.”
News that 17,400 people have been duped into registering with Irish Water comes a week after it emerged a Wexford man and his carer wife had been signed up against their wishes.
Jim and Julie Nolan explained that despite sending back their application pack without filling it in, simply writing “no consent no contract” on the document, they subsequently received a letter from Irish Water confirming their application was being “processed”.
Mr Nolan said that, after contacting Irish Water, a supervisor “informed me once they receive an application form, filled out or not, Irish Water assumes the person is one of their customers”.
The Wexford man, who is on an invalidity pension, said: “We just can’t afford it.”
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