Proposed changes to water charges are ‘too inflexible’ says lobby group

Businesses will be put on wrong tariffs due to Covid-19 lockdown, says Chambers Ireland

Proposed changes to how Irish businesses are billed for water usage are too "inflexible" and are likely to be thrown into chaos by the Covid-19 crisis, business lobby group Chambers Ireland has claimed.

Under moves to harmonise water charges across the State, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), the State’s water and energy regulator, is introducing a new system that will see businesses paying for their water at rates based on the previous year’s usage.

But with so many businesses likely to be closed for an extended period this year as a result of coronavirus, many will be put into the wrong tariff category next year, resulting in a spate of challenges, the group said in a submission to the regulator.


These same businesses will have to challenge their bills a second time in 2021, because their consumption in 2020 is also likely to be completely unrepresentative, it said.


A spokesman said the transition zones between tariff classes posed a problem with businesses slipping onto the wrong tariff, which alters the per-unit price.

Chambers Ireland also claims the new rules transfer the risks associated with on-site water leakages onto the occupiers.

"Across the country, many businesses are not free to maintain, or perhaps even access, their business premises. Key workers may be cocooned," chief executive Ian Talbot said.

“The proposed system is so inflexible that it cannot deal with real world problems. These problems with the CRU proposals will create an undue burden on businesses which they will have to investigate whether they should be on a more appropriate rate, and will also create the bureaucratic challenge of tens of thousands of customers having to contest their bills.”


Chambers Ireland has written to the CRU asking it to be more flexible in how business consumers are billed as part of Irish Water’s Non-Domestic Tariff Framework.

Irish Water recently deferred the introduction of the new charging system for non-domestic customers because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The new regime was due to come into effect on May 1st and apply to more than 183,000 water and 164,000 wastewater connections from the business, industrial and agricultural sectors, as well as to public bodies, charities and social enterprises.

Under the new system, more than 50 per cent of businesses will see their water bills increase.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times