Q&A: How will the water charge refunds work?

The Cabinet has agreed to refund water charges to householders by end of the year

The Cabinet has formally agreed to refund water charges to householders by the end of the year

The Cabinet has formally agreed to refund water charges to householders by the end of the year

 

What’s happening to Irish Water now?

The whole sorry mess is nearly done with. The Cabinet has formally agreed to refund water charges to householders by the end of the year and Minister for Binning Water Charges (and Housing) Eoghan Murphy told his colleagues how the refund system is going to work at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

That’s good news, when will I get my money back?

The idea is that everyone will get their money back by the end of the year.

Everyone?

Well, everyone who paid their bills. Paul Murphy won’t be getting any refunds for obvious reasons.

How much is it again?

Well that depends on how many of the five bills you paid and how many adults live in your house. Householders who paid all five bills and lived alone will get €200 while those who live in a household of more than one adult will be entitled to €325.

And how will the refund be processed?

The cheque is in the post. Or at least it will be once legislation is passed allowing the refunds to take place.

Will I have to apply for the refund or will I just get it?

You probably won’t have to do anything. Irish Water have your payment details and your records on their systems so they should be able to process the refunds automatically.

I paid by direct debit. Can they transfer the money back into my bank account?

You would think that would be easier but it seems as if the system is looking for a one size fits all policy. Some people paid their bills with debit cards, some by direct debit, credit cards were used as were post offices and cheques. To be fair to Irish Water and the Government sending out a cheque to every one probably does make more sense.

I have moved house. Will I not get my cheque?

You will but you will have to do something about it. Specifically you will have to make contact with Irish Water giving them your new address and the cheque will be sent there. The company will be running an advertising campaign in the weeks ahead which will outline exactly how the process will work.

I only paid part of my first few bills but then stopped as I figured the system was doomed. What will I get back?

You will get back what you paid.

Irish Water has had more than €300 of my money for more than a year. I could have earned interest on that. Will that be reflected in my cheque?

It most certainly will not. Before you get up on your high horse, you can take comfort from the fact that interest rates for money on deposit are historically low. If you had put the 300 quid or so you gave to Irish Water in the bank you might have earned an interest rate of 0.1 per cent over the course of the last year which works out at 30 cent - and you would have paid tax on that too.

What about the Water Conservation Grant? Will I have to give that back?

Amazingly, no. The €100 grant was distributed by the Department of Social Protection and was introduced in 2015, when rage about water was starting to boil over.

It was widely viewed as an attempt to entice people to sign up to the billing system, although the government insisted it aimed to encourage more considered use of water.

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would like the grant to be deducted from the refund, official assurances given at the time to the European Commission that the grant and the charges were entirely separate, meaning that is likely to prove tricky.

How much is the refund going to cost and where is the money coming from?

All told, €170 million will have to be refunded. An underspend in the Department of Social Protection due to falling numbers claiming jobseekers’ allowance is likely to be the source of the money.

How is the water infrastructure going to be maintained and developed?

All the money will come from the exchequer, which means we will still be paying for our water as we have always done.

What about all the meters put in place? Is there any use for them now?

It is hard to say. On the plus side, the metering programme has detected leaks and allowed for the monitoring of water usage. But that seems like a poor return for all the cost and all the hassle associated with their installation.

Will Ireland now face fines from the EU over its water conservation policy, or lack thereof?

Perhaps. Although the Government is hoping as yet unclear rules connected to excessive water usage might save it on that score.