Consumer group calls for fairer approach on water charges

A consumer movement that negotiates group discounts on utility bills for thousands of householders is taking its people power approach to water charges.

The One Big Switch network can’t haggle for reduced water bills as long as the State is the sole supplier of water, but co-founder Oliver Tattan said his aim is to make the Government listen to the concerns of households and take a fairer approach to how the charges are levied.

Over 4,000 Big Switch users responded to a survey asking for their views on water charges. The results reveal real worry about the extra bills coming down the line.

Key findings included that 77% of householders disagreed with the introduction of the charges, believing them an unfair burden on families. Some 97% said they were under stress to pay existing bills, with 65% under a lot of or extreme stress, and 97% said the estimated €240 average annual charge would increase their bill stress.

The majority (67%) were opposed to the €50 standing charge and the same proportion said the free allowance of 30,000 litres a year would not be sufficient.

“We wanted to draw to the attention of policy makers what ordinary householders are feeling about water charges. Nobody has really asked consumers what they think.”

Mr Tattan said the majority accepted water charges were a done deal but wanted assurances the policy would be implemented fairly by, for example, exempting households in areas under boil water notices.

In addition, 83% said water charges should be postponed until meters were in place and 68% were opposed to the proposal to reduce water pressure to a trick if households fail to pay a bill.

Around 65,000 people have signed up to One Big Switch in Ireland to avail of group discounts on electricity and gas but without competition in the water market, they will have to pay whatever the Government demands.

“If there is a different supplier of water in the future, then I think we could look at that but at the moment we wanted to facilitate our members to get their views across.”

The results are being sent to all the main political parties and relevant government ministers.



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