Irish Water has been investigated by the industry watchdog in relation to 19 “complex complaints” by customers over the past year.
The Commission for Energy Regulation has described the level of complaints as “low” since it assumed the role of independent regulator of water services in October 2014.
However, the CER said the low volume of complaints may also reflect the fact that its role as regulator of Irish Water remains relatively unknown to Irish Water customers.
It is understood several complaints related to claims that damage was done to a customer’s property during installation of a water meter.
The CER believes the vast majority of complaints will relate to billing issues.
The CER will only examine complaints after customers have first fully exhausted Irish Water’s own complaint resolution. Also, it will only deal with complaints from householders and businesses registered as customers of Irish Water.
The CER, which also regulates electricity and natural gas suppliers, has received 6,000 queries in the past 12 months including 790 in relation to Irish Water — 14% of the total. The commission’s chairman, Garrett Blaney, said the figures showed there was a continued high demand for the commission’s dispute resolution services for gas, electricity and increasingly water.
Following investigation, the CER must issue its findings in writing which may include the payment of a refund or compensation. A limit of €100 compensation was removed following implementation of the Water Services Act in 2014. Decisions are final and not subject to an appeal. They are also binding on Irish Water, although customers are not obliged to accept the CER’s findings.
“Most queries in relation to Irish Water were requests for further information, general complaints about the imposition of water charges, the installation of meters or the level of tariffs being charged,” said a CER spokesman. He claimed peaks in the level of queries and complaints corresponded to the publication of various stages in the development of Irish Water such as the announcement of domestic tariffs.
The CER anticipated they might see an increase in complaints following the issuing of the first water bills in April 2015. Although there was a significant rise in queries since July, they have not translated into any notable increase in complaints.
In most cases, the CER referred the customer to Irish Water, as many related to how to pay charges or where to register complaints.
People making complaints about water quality were advised to contact the Environmental Protection Agency. As many of the 19 cases are still being processed, the CER declined to provide a breakdown of how many cases have been upheld.
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