| 11.6°C Dublin

Lack of clarity over medical exemptions will only hurt paying customers

THE lack of clarity on specific medical conditions will be of no comfort to customers of Irish Water. In the absence of clear guidelines, people who will begin paying for their water from October 1 can rightly feel that they may be subject to inspection.

The idea of asking people to state they have a condition and take their word on trust is commendable.

But as lobby groups rightly point out, many people - particularly the elderly - may feel that their condition isn't sufficiently serious to warrant special treatment and decide not to declare it themselves, resulting in them paying higher bills.

There's also the issue of those who require assistance in the home which allows them to lead independent lives. Should they not be granted an exemption for the water used by their personal assistant?

The Government has had plenty of time to decide this issue and list the qualifying conditions. They could have looked to the UK for such a list.

Using that list as a template, they could then have put the matter out for consultation and asked the public to propose additional conditions.

This should have been done months ago, well in advance of looming charges. It would mean no one would feel discriminated against because they hadn't been afforded the opportunity to state their case.

Instead, Irish Water is relying on honesty.

While most people will not abuse the system, there's no doubt that some will attempt to invent ailments so they benefit from capped bills.

It means they will have no incentive to reduce consumption, the whole point of the exercise.

Every paying customer should care about this lack of clarity, because ultimately they will be subsidising those who are less than honest.

But this is just one of a number of issues at the heart of quality customer service yet to be decided.

Others include details of the 'first fix free' policy; what happens if the water is not safe to drink?; and the issue of metering apartments. We are still awaiting decisions on these matters.

Clarity should be provided as soon as possible.

There's no reason why a public consultation process could not begin in the coming weeks, so the conditions are set out before the first bills land in January.

Irish Independent