Latest: TD Mattie McGrath hopes 'bizarre' water charge refund cheques won't bounce

Latest: An Independent TD has labelled the water charge refunds as "farcical in the extreme".

Latest: TD Mattie McGrath hopes 'bizarre' water charge refund cheques won't bounce

Update 11:45am: An Independent TD has labelled the water charge refunds as "farcical in the extreme".

"It's bizarre. Obviously people paid the money and then they scrapped the charges. In any method of fairness they had to give it back but it's farcical in the extreme," Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said.

"I certainly hope the cheques won't bounce because Irish Water do not have any funding stream now and we had almost a million people who wanted to pay," he added.

It was revealed yesterday that a million households are due to get a cheque in the post from the Government before the end of the year.

But it has emerged today that customers could still end up with bills for excessive usage.

Charges will kick in for anyone who uses more than 1.7 times the average amount.

Earlier: Householders have been warned to remain vigilant as cybercriminals aim to steal from bank accounts via another wave of fraudulent emails claiming to come from Irish Water, writes Joe Leogue of the Irish Examiner.

Internet security firm ESET Ireland has warned computer users are receiving an email titled “Update your account details” which is doctored to resemble a communication from Irish Water.

The email is a phishing scam designed to steal credit card information and Irish Water login information.

“Clicking on the link leads to a forged log-in page, where the victim first hands over their Irish Water log-in details, and is then asked to enter all the details of their credit or debit card as well and confirm it,” ESET warned. “After providing the cybercriminals with all the required info, the user gets bounced back to the actual Irish Water website,” it said.

As always, ESET Ireland recommends users should avoid clicking on any links in such fraudulent emails, as they can lead to counterfeit or infected websites, that can spread malware or cause financial damage. Irish Water has advice for households on water.ie/support/fraudulent-email-advice.

The warning comes as research into EU countries’ vulnerabilities to cybercrime shows that Ireland is among the safer nations in Europe when it comes to online security.

Website Builder Expert, an online company for small businesses, used data from the EU, Microsoft, the Global Cyber-Security Index, and global cyber-security agency Rapid7, to rank countries on their vulnerability.

These rankings were based on criteria such as a country’s previous cybercrime encounter rate, its malware encounter rates per year, its commitment to cyber-security initiatives, and its internet node exposure.

Malta claimed the unwanted first place recognition as the most vulnerable nation, with Finland the least vulnerable in 28th position. Ireland was ranked in 17th place. Despite ranking in the middle of the pack for malware and cybercrime encounters, Malta’s high percentage of exposed internet connection ports (73% of all ports), lack of cybersecurity legislation and poor international co-operation saw it top the list overall.

Water charges may be gone but customers could still be faced with bills.

Excessive usage will have to be paid for according to the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

The Irish Independent says the charges could work out at more than €230 a year for some households.

Charges will kick in for anyone who uses more than 1.7 times the average amount.

Green Party Senator Grace O'Sullivan, is a member of the Government's committee on the future funding of domestic water services.

She said: "There's time now for people to be cognisant of their water use. Anyone who feels that they are overusing their water for whatever reason there is rainwater harvesting.

"Or they can actually take control of their water by monitoring what they are using through water meters."

Refunds explained

Q: Why are customers being refunded?

A: Last April, the Oireachtas Committee on Water recommended equity of treatment for those who have paid and not paid water charges. The Oireachtas has approved the committee’s report and the Government is moving to implement that recommendation.

Q: Who will be repaid?

A: Named account holders of Irish Water who paid their charges will be refunded.

Q: When and how will people get their money back?

A: Irish Water says almost all customers will be refunded by cheque before the end of the year. Exceptional cases will be processed in the first quarter of next year.

Q: Do people need to do anything now?

A: No. Irish Water will run an information campaign shortly that will inform customers on the next steps. There is no application process involved. Customers only need to contact Irish Water if their details require updating, like if the person who paid the money has since died or you have moved house.

Q: Will the Water Conservation Grant be deducted from refunds?

A: No. The grant was a standalone, separate grant for all households whether Irish Water customers or not. Its aim was to support conservation and was distinct from domestic water charges. Therefore, it is not being deducted.

Q: How much will this cost?

A: €173m for the refunds, plus admin costs of about €5m. The Government is putting in an additional €1m as a contingency. As there won’t be charges paid for the rest of this year, an extra €114m has been allocated to Irish Water to allow it to operate. So the total cost is likely to be just under €300m.

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