Politicians to have own Irish Water helpdesk

Eight-person helpdesk set up to deal with queries from Senators, TDs and councillors

The desk at the Curaheen centre is designed to deal with Senators, TDs and councillors looking for updates on infrastructural maintenance operations in their locality.

The desk at the Curaheen centre is designed to deal with Senators, TDs and councillors looking for updates on infrastructural maintenance operations in their locality.

 

Irish Water has established an eight-person helpdesk at its call centre in Co Cork specifically set aside to deal with queries from political representatives.

The desk at the Curaheen centre is designed to deal with Senators, TDs and councillors looking for updates on infrastructural maintenance operations in their locality. Politicians are also encouraged to relay customer queries from their constituents to the dedicated mini-team.

About 450 employees at the complex deal with queries from the public via phone, email and social media.

The Curaheen complex is one of two centres in Co Cork where Irish Water staff are located, and handles 800-1,000 calls a day. The second centre is at Mahon.

There were about 1,600 applications for 350 Irish Water call centre positions earlier this year, according to Pat Ryan, chief operating officer of Abtran, which provides customer and business process management services to the controversial utility company.

“We didn’t find any difficulty in recruiting for Irish Water over and above for any other utility,” he said. “It was a big recruitment drive but it was very successful.”

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Shane Bowles

“If they’re just calling for an argument or to be abusive or aggressive towards either Irish Water the brand or the agent then there’d be a standard procedure in place to terminate the call at some point,” he said.

According to billing services manager Yvonne Harris, there have been numerous cases where people were “eager to pay” for their water bills before they were even issued, and one incident where a customer physically posted their credit card to a billing centre.

Meanwhile, the utility company has not ruled out taking legal action to recover money owed from customers who fail to pay their water bills.

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In July, the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill was passed, which allows companies to apply for a court direction for outstanding debts to be deducted from a billpayer’s wages or social welfare payments.

Speaking at a media briefing in Curaheen, the company’s head of communications Elizabeth Arnett said such legal action remains “a long way down the road”, but declined to rule it out. “Additional charges will apply to bill five, and then we’ll see where we’re at at that point. It’s a long way off,” she said.

Last month it emerged that 57 per cent of the first round of bills issued were not paid. The utility firm expects to complete its second round of billing next week.

The Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill allows for the recovery of debts of between €500 and €4,000.