Pay in ‘timely’ manner or lose water allowance

Householders who fall behind with quarterly water bills next year face the prospect of losing the free water allowance for the following quarter, according to the Department of the Environment.

Households fitted with an Irish Water meter will be charged for all water usage above the annual free allowance of 30,000 litres. If they have children, their free allowance will increase by another 38,000 litres per child, per year.

However, if householders fail to pay their previous quarter bill in a “timely” manner, it could mean they lose the next quarter’s allocated free allowance.

Notes prepared by the Department of Environment state: “Irish Water will be required to ensure in the water charges plan submitted to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) that free allowances are only applied to households who pay their charges in a timely manner — ie where charges are paid in accordance with the approved water charges plan or an approved agreement.”

An Irish Water spokeswoman said that as a “customer matter”, this was an issue for the CER.

She noted however that “getting an allowance, implies that you are paying a bill”.

Meanwhile, after the success of its gas and electricity campaign, the consumer network, One Big Switch, has launched a campaign to find 5,000 consumers who will write a submission to politicians on water charges.

Anybody interested in contributing can answer a series of questions at onebigswitch.ie, and the answers will be collated into an overall, group submission. According to One Big Switch, the crowdwriting project is the first of its kind in Ireland and is aimed at helping ordinary householders to have a say in the design of the water charges payment and water billing services.

Co-founder Oliver Tattan said they want to develop “a powerful voice for consumers”.

“By acting together, we can help make sure that ordinary families aren’t ignored in the water charges debate. The more people who add their name to the submission, the louder our collective voice will get, so please spread the word to your family and friends.”

The website asks consumers questions such as whether they agree with water charges, the lack of standing charge, if they think the free allowance is of sufficient size, and whom they think should get concessions.

Earlier this year, One Big Switch’s 40,000 members reached agreement with Bord Gáis Energy to offer €80 cash back to electricity customers who move to the provider.

Customers who move as part of the One Big Switch will also get the same 10% discount on the standard rate of electricity in the first year, which the firm makes available to anyone who switches to it, taking the combined saving for people who have joined the campaign to over €200 a year.

Meanwhile, Independent senator and North West MEP candidate Ronan Mullen described the introduction of water charges as shambolic.

“Despite spending tens of millions of euros in taxpayers’ money over several years on introducing water charges, almost 1m householders still haven’t water meters installed and will be obliged to pay a fixed charge rather than manage their water bill. For these million households, it’s reported that the cost will be €72 more on average than metered houses,” he said.

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