herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Water bills for non-customers to cost €110,000

(L to R) Elizabeth Arnett head of communications at Irish Water
Minister of Environment, Community & Local Government Alan Kelly TD
John Tierney Managing Director of Irish Water during a briefing to media at Irish Water HQ Talbot Street Dublin
(L to R) Elizabeth Arnett head of communications at Irish Water Minister of Environment, Community & Local Government Alan Kelly TD John Tierney Managing Director of Irish Water during a briefing to media at Irish Water HQ Talbot Street Dublin

IRISH water will spend more than €110,000 sending bills to households that won't be customers, the Herald can reveal.

The controversial utility has said that it has "no option" but to issue a bill to 150,000 households that aren't on the public water system because they haven't registered with Irish Water to identify themselves as non-customers.

Irish Water has said the per unit cost of paper, printing, postage and bill insert for the vast majority of its customers is €0.75 per letter.

That means the total cost of issuing bills to 1.65m households beginning in April will come to more than €1.2m.

The utility's head of communications Elizabeth Arnett revealed on RTE Radio on Wednesday that bills would be sent to 150,000 households who won't be customers.

"There has never been a database of people connected to public water services," she said explaining why it was happening.

Last night a spokesperson for Irish Water appealed to the 150,000 householders to contact them "so that we do not need to incur further billing costs in relation to this.

"Although we know our customer base is approximately 1.5 million and 990,000 have registered with us we have no way of knowing which of the remaining 650,000 households on our database are non-customers and we therefore have no option to but to issue a bill to all," she said.

She pointed out that it is in the interests of the 150,000 households to register with Irish Water before June 30 as despite not being customers, they are eligible to claim the €100 water conservation grant.

The spokesperson said the sums spent on billing have been approved by the regulator.

"The frequency and cost of billing have already been provided to the regulator as part of the price control submission. The Commission for Energy Regulation considered the costs to be appropriate for a utility such as Irish Water," she said.

Irish Water will begin issuing bills next month.

Metering was supposed to begin at homes where they have been installed last October but that plan was scrapped amid rising public anger over water charges.

In November Minister Alan Kelly announced that the fees would be capped at €160 for a single person household and €260 for homes with two or more people.

He also announced the €100 water conservation grant that people who register with Irish Water can apply for later this year.

The quarterly bills that will land on doormats in the coming weeks will come to €40 for a single adult household and €65 for two or more adults.

Households that have had meters installed already will be charged less if their measured consumption comes in below those sums.

Ms Arnett said that at least a third of households with a meter will pay less than the capped charge for this reason.

Despite the government U-turn and the introduction of capped charges there remains a significant portion of the population who have yet to register with the utility.

Irish Water said that around 650,000 households - including the 150,000 non-customers - have not signed up yet.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the capital's streets last weekend in a display of continuing opposition to the charges.

hnews@herald.ie

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