Irish Water has launched a website dealing specifically with refunds of charges.
The website is now live, though the legislation that needs to be enacted for refunds to be processed has still not passed through the Houses of Oireachtas.
The Water Services Bill passed through Committee stage last Wednesday, where Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voted together and rejected dozens of amendments tabled by opposition parties.
The proposed legislation will go to report stage in the Dáil next week and if it passes, it will progress through the Seanad.
It was hoped that refunds would be given before Christmas, but Oireachtas water committee member Jan O’Sullivan of Labour told the Irish Examiner she would be very surprised if everyone had their money back by then.
Ms O’Sullivan tabled two amendments at committee stage, which included a referendum whereby the electorate could vote on the public ownership of water services.
This was rejected and she will resubmit her amendments during the report stage in the Dáil next week.
As well as the website being launched, radio ads will be broadcast on local and national stations this week.
Irish Water customers will be asked to contact the body if they have changed their address and have yet to update their details so that refunds can be sent to them.
Refunds will be made by cheque to the account holder at the address they provided to Irish Water.
If a customer’s address or personal details have not changed, they will not have to contact Irish Water to get their refund.
Refunds are being made by cheque as this is the “quickest and most efficient means of payment” according to Irish Water.
Irish Water’s Eamon Gallen confirmed yesterday that customers will receive the full amount that they originally paid in water charges.
“The two big questions that customers have is how much they will receive and when they will receive it,” said Mr Gallen.
“Household customers can be assured that they will receive the full amount they paid, and customers will shortly be able to check online exactly how much they are due and when there are likely to receive their refund.
“Irish Water has been working in the background for several months to ensure that refunds will be ready to go as soon as we are authorised to do so by the Government.
“Our priority is to ensure that those who paid their household charges get their refund as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“This is why I would urge any customers who have not informed us of a change of address to do so now so that their details are up to date and there is no delay in issuing their cheque.”
Ms O’Sullivan estimated that it will be another two weeks at least before the Water Services Bill has passed all stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Even if it is signed into law so that refunds can be given, the European Commission will have to make its ruling on it.
The EU Commission will decide whether or not it breaches the EU Water Framework Directive.
The directive requires EU member states to take a new holistic approach to managing their waters.
This applies to rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries, and coastal waters.
The EU’s Water Framework Directive had originally given Ireland a derogation from water charges as it was not the established practice here.
However, that legal exemption was no longer applicable once water charges were introduced.
Therefore, the commission will have to make a new ruling once this legislation has been passed.
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