Sunday 15 December 2019

Pipe up or you might not get what you're paying for

It's predicted that one in five households won't pay their water charges when the first bills land in January
It's predicted that one in five households won't pay their water charges when the first bills land in January
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

THERE's no point griping next January when bills land through letterboxes.

Anyone who wants to ensure fairness in how water charges are applied should read six documents published on the Commission for Energy Regulation's website, www.cer.ie.

Now is the time for members of the public to submit their views on what protections should be in place for customers.

The debate over whether water charges are fair or not is over. They're coming, and it's better that robust customer care policies are in place – where the customer is king – and making tariffs as fair as possible. This will only come about if people join the debate. Key questions to be addressed include whether customers should pay if the water is unfit to drink? What happens if Irish Water refuses to deal with complaints? How should those in arrears be treated? If water pressure is low, should the full amount be paid?

Customers should rewarded for reducing consumption by enjoying lower bills. They should also enjoy a five-star standard of service. Calls should be answered promptly and overpayments should be paid back, with interest.

Crucially, Irish Water should begin showing its customers how its work – funded by their payments – is improving the network. There should be no boil water notices. Supplies in our large towns and cities should not be on a knife-edge. International firms heavily dependent on water should look no further than Ireland when making investment decisions.

The Government has repeatedly said this unpopular water tax is designed to fund improvements needed to bring the network up to standard. Apart from the €720m needed to operate the system, a staggering €500m a year is needed until at least 2030 to deliver world-class infrastructure.

Read the documents and submit your views before May 16. It's in everybody's interest to get this right.

Irish Independent

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