Consumers need to be told water fees to plan household budgets
THE consumers watchdog has warned that spending in the economy could fall unless householders are told the expected cost of water charges to be introduced in October.
The Consumers Association of Ireland said the Government also needed to begin providing details to consumers on the amount of free water to be allocated to homeowners, what level of service they can expect and an outline of possible charges.
The comments came after the Irish Independent revealed that different tariffs may be applied to households using large volumes of water, which will result in higher bills.
It also emerged that the regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), will also consider whether a standing charge will be imposed, if it will have to be paid regardless of whether water was used and if the rate per cubic metre (1,000 litres) should vary, depending on consumption.
The revelations prompted fury from Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who said the story had "no basis", and that no decision had been made in regard to the level of charges to be applied.
However, sources in the regulator confirmed that the issues outlined would be among a number to be raised when the issue of charges and how bills would be structured begins in April.
Paul McGowan, from the CER, told Today FM he would not comment on the possible charges because it would be subject to a public consultation process.
"We're not commenting on that because we will be going through a public consultation process. It would be premature of me to talk about individual schemes," he said.
However, the Consumers Association said it was "concerned" about the lack of information being provided to the public, which could impact on spending across the economy.
Information about the property tax and other levies was provided early to consumers, which helped them plan their spending, spokesman Dermott Jewell said.
"It's very poor and we are concerned," he said. "We now have one of the most concerning challenges to be introduced and there is no clarification whatsoever in terms of charges for any groupings.
"We need some figures. We need honest, appraised figures for the people who will be paying them and we need them now.
"An announcement from Government needs to be heard. At least then, everybody would have some benchmark."
The Government has said that each customer would be given an allowance of 'free' water, but the amount has yet to be decided.