Monday 24 June 2019

Thousands of water customers are sent wrong bills

Irish Water has stated that one in six bills, or 100,000, would be calculated on a flat-rate or 'assessed' basis, instead of being based on the amount of water consumed
Irish Water has stated that one in six bills, or 100,000, would be calculated on a flat-rate or 'assessed' basis, instead of being based on the amount of water consumed
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Almost 100,000 homes fitted with meters will receive flat rate bills from Irish Water, resulting in higher charges for tens of thousands of families.

Customers will miss out on cheaper bills because the controversial utility has been unable to match meters with individual addresses.

This means that the residents will be hit with a capped charge of €65 per family of two adults or more, or €40 for a single person even if they have made efforts to reduce their usage.

The Irish Independent has also learned that deferring the introduction of water charges by three months to January this year cost the taxpayer €68m. The decision to delay the introduction of charges meant Irish Water had to receive extra state funding.

The developments come as Irish Water revealed that some customers have received bills for the first three months of the year for as much as €19,153, indicating they have a serious leak.

One households' consumption was more than five million litres, or a staggering 57,000 litres a day.

This is equivalent to taking 718 baths, and indicates a serious problem. But some households will also receive higher-than-expected bills due to a difficulty matching meters with individual properties.

This is despite 33pc of households being expected to 'beat the meter' and use less water than the capped amount. But because their data cannot be matched it means they will receive an 'assessed' bill.

The reason why capped bills are being sent is because the house has a 'non-unique' generic address such as 'Main Street' or there was no clear link between the meter and the water pipe to the property, a spokeswoman said.

This means that Irish Water cannot provide an accurate bill until the resident confirms the meter relates to their home.

However, the spokeswoman insisted that the customer would not be disadvantaged.

"When the customer gets the notification, they can help us match it," the spokeswoman added. "The really important point is the customer will not be at a disadvantage. If you have an assessed bill, when we match it up and show you were using less than the cap, that will be credited to your account.

"You won't pay more because your consumption hasn't been metered. It's in the customer's interest (to contact the company) because if you're not matched you can't beat the cap."

A total of 1.7 million bills will be sent by the company based on water consumption for the first three months of the year, with 1.3 million already posted. Some 600,000 will be sent to homeowners where meters have been fitted.

But Irish Water said that one in six of these bills, or 100,000, would be calculated on a flat-rate or 'assessed' basis, instead of being based on the amount of water consumed.

Update

The company plans to write to affected homeowners asking them to update their details in the coming weeks, with some 27,000 letters being sent this next week alone. Another 48,000 will follow shortly. Irish Water said it was able to match the metering data internally for the remainder.

Each affected property will receive two pieces of correspondence. The first is the bill, with the correct name and address and including the capped charge. A second letter asks customers to contact the company to update their details.

"Your first Irish Water bill was for a capped amount and did not show your meter reading because your customer account information has yet to be linked with your water meter location," it says.

Customers are asked to fill in the so-called 'water point reference number' and account number as they appear on the bill, and return it.

It adds: "If your meter shows that you have used less water than the capped charge, you will be due a credit. We estimate that one third of metered customers can pay less than the capped charge. No customer will pay more than the flat charge."

Irish Water has said there will be problems with billing as the system beds in.

Some 600,000 meters were installed as of March 31 when the first bills were calculated, and of these, 84pc matched with specific addresses.

While some of the affected households will have already received assessed bills, other will arrive over the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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