Irish Water: 46% collection rate a ‘solid start’

Irish Water has said that 46% of the revenue collected from its first billing cycle is a “solid start” for the utility.

Irish Water: 46% collection rate a ‘solid start’

The company said €30.5m was received in the first billing cycle for drinking water and wastewater services provided by the public utility and that 675,000 households were paying water charges.

Elizabeth Arnett, head of communications and corporate affairs at Irish Water, said it had “a payment rate that is broadly in line with what would be expected for a new utility sending out a new bill for the first time”.

She added: “675,000 households are now paying water charges, meaning that nearly 2m people are living in homes that pay for water services supplied by Irish Water. Payment received for the first billing cycle, at over €30.5m, is 46% of €66.8m due and payments for the first bill are still coming in.”

She also cited the number of calls to its contact centre as evidence of consumer engagement with Irish Water.

“Irish Water’s contact centre has dealt with more than 500,000 calls in the last 12 weeks. Customers are contacting us to pay, to update personal information, and with questions about their bill. Any customers who have a genuine difficulty paying their bill should contact us to arrange payment terms. We have a range of flexible ways in which people can pay in amounts starting from €5.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Ms Arnett said long-established utilities in the UK have an average three-month wait for customers to pay their bills.

“It’s 46% of the revenue we targeted for this first quarter of billing, so clearly we do have work to do, but I will say that 12 weeks in with no reminders having been sent out that we are very much in line with the expectations as to where we thought we would be at this point in time.”

Ms Arnett said Irish Water was fully funded up to the end of 2015 and that it was prepared for a “lag phase” between billing and payment.

“This is the first time this charge has been issued as a bill, this is the first time people have received this,” she said.

“It does take time for new charges to bed down and we accept that and we have put in place from the outset financial facilities to ensure that we are fully funded for 2015 because we expect to be here.”

Customers will only face a penalty if they fail to pay their first four bills. A household with two adults will be subject to a €60 additional charge, a single adult household will receive a €30 charge.

“We will not be cutting off services but we will be seeking payment as any normal utility will do. If there’s four bills that are outstanding additional charges will apply. We don’t want to be collecting additional charges from people, we want to be collecting charges for the services that we are providing, notwithstanding that additional charges will apply and there are additional measures then available.”

Ms Arnett said Irish Water had spent over €600,000 as part of a previous advertising campaign, and that it will be “communicating” further with the public, though it has yet to finalise the budget for this campaign.

Irish Water said the second billing cycle was now under way and would involve reading 640,000 meters. It said almost 40% of metered customers will pay less than the capped charge of €65, or €40, depending on household size.

The second billing period covers April 1 to June 30. Bills are issued quarterly in arrears and will be based on the number of days in each quarter. An annual bill for a single adult household will be no greater than €160, while €260 is the most a house with two or more adults will be charged.

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