Data commissioner to review details sought by Irish Water

Watchdog advised utility company to limit personal data involved when billing customers

The Data Protection Commissioner is to review the level of personal detail sought by Irish Water on its payment forms for customers.

The Data Protection Commissioner is to review the level of personal detail sought by Irish Water on its payment forms for customers.

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 13:30

The Data Protection Commissioner is to review the level of personal detail Irish Water proposed to seek from householders for payment of the water charge.

The commissioner’s office confirmed today it is examining a four-page form prepared by the water utility company, which seeks bank details as well as PPS numbers for householders and their children.

Irish Water claimed today, however, the forms seen by the Irish Times were a “draft” and not the final version which would be sent to customers.

Householders are asked to provide their bank account details, their PPS numbers and the PPS numbers of any children living with them.

It also asks the “account holder” for their name and address, whether they are a tenant or owner, and the details about what type of piped water they receive and what type of sewerage facility they use.

Section 3 of the form asks for the householder’s personal public service (PPS) number as well as those of any children aged 17 years or younger “who are in receipt of child benefit”.

The final section of the form is a direct debit mandate. The option of a “recurrent payment” is pre-ticked.

A spokeswoman for the commissioner’s office confirmed today it had been consulted by Irish Water in relation to its use of personal data.

“Our advice focused on limiting the access to personal data involved in billing customers and ensuring any such access was covered by law and was proportionate,” she said.

“We are aware that the Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2014 contains a provision which will authorise Irish Water to use the PPSN.”

She said the office was currently reviewing the application forms referred to in today’s Irish Times.

“We are engaged in ongoing and regular contact with Irish Water in relation to these matters to seek to ensure that data protection considerations are taken account of.”

The Department of Social Protection said section 20 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2014 contains an amendment which will make Irish Water a ‘specified body’ for the purposes of using the PPS number.

“This Bill passed all stages of the Oireachtas last Wednesday (July 9th) and is currently with the President for signature.”

The new utility, which will begin charging for water from October 1st, with the first bills in January, will begin posting the “allowances application form” in September. The four-page form will have to be returned by October 31st.

It remains unclear what the water allowance for children will be. The Government announced a free allowance of 38,000 litres per year per child; however, Irish Water has applied to the Commission for Energy Regulation to have this reduced.