Non-registration tariff less than some water bills

Many families would be better off paying Irish Water’s penalty fee for failing to register with the company than paying the normal charges for registered customers.

Households that refuse to register their full details are being warned they face a default tariff based on charges for two adults with no free allowances.

However, that works out at €424 per year — less than the €483 that a family of four adults or a couple with two grown-up children living at home who register and receive allowances — will be billed.

The anomaly emerged as the Commission for Energy Regulation yesterday signed off on the water company’s charging scheme in advance of charges beginning today.

The CER said any issue that might arise with households refusing to register would have to be addressed by Irish Water. The firm admitted the system could be abused, but urged people to register with their full details.

While charging starts today, households will get their first bill in January covering the October to December period, with subsequent bills every three months after that.

Only one third of households will have water meters by then, so all those who have registered will have their bill capped at an “assessed” or standard charge, starting at €44 for one adult, unless they have a meter and it shows a lower amount.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul heavily criticised the arrangements, saying yesterday’s last-minute confirmation of charges by the CER made a “mockery” of the regulatory system.

Head of policy John-Mark McCafferty also said there were real fears that the charges would rise once the current fixed charge period ended in 2016.

“The government subsidy is the most significant aspect of pricing for households and it is far from certain that the level of subsidy will remain post 2016,” said Mr McCafferty.

Without it, he said, the €240 cited by the Government as the likely average national bill could be closer to €600.

Mr McCafferty was also critical of the CER’s move to apply a set charge of €125 for unoccupied dwellings — down from the €160 it proposed earlier this year. His criticism came as it emerged that some government ministers can claim water charges as expenses on second homes.

“Customers without second homes are effectively subsidising owners of second or indeed multiple homes,” he said.

“This process has been rushed through and will result in severe impositions on vulnerable families and individuals.”

Irish Water said it believed it could provide a value-for-money service by investing in improving Ireland’s neglected water infrastructure. The firm dealt with eight burst water mains in seven counties alone yesterday, and had to disrupt supplies in 15 other areas for emergency or essential maintenance works.

Water bills

Your bill in January (and for the full year):

- One adult household — €44 (€176)

- Two adults €70 (€278)

- Three adults €95 (€381)

- Four adults €121 (€483)

- Each additional adult €25 (€102)

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