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Irish Water has put out a tender for a debt collection agency

The utility told TheJournal.ie it was a “precautionary measure”, but said domestic customers remain liable for outstanding bills.

shutterstock_366821714 Source: Shutterstock/Kjeld Friis

IRISH WATER IS seeking debt collectors to chase overdue payments.

The Government has suspended water charges until next year, but last weekend the national water utility put out a tender to hire a debt collection agency.

The tender calls for the recovery of business debt and, depending on government policy, the eventual pursuit of overdue domestic water charges.

The utility has described it as a “precautionary measure”, but notes that domestic customers remain liable for outstanding bills.

Residential charges were suspended for nine months from July while a Government commission examines  how Ireland should fund its water services. The commission is due to report back next month. The deadline for tender submissions is 9 November.

The Irish Water tender document includes a request for

debt-collection proceedings in the district, circuit, and High Court for the recovery of overdue non-domestic customer debt including ancillary services, debt collection legal services, and the option to extend collection proceedings to overdue domestic water charges.

Ireland’s water charges, which have been suspended, are among the lowest in Europe, according to new figures.

The 2016 Global Water Intelligence Annual Tariff Survey also showed that out of 95 European cities (85 of them in the EU) only Belfast did not have domestic water charges in place.

water bill Annual water charges in 31 European cities Source: GWI

Click here to view a larger image

Earlier this year it emerged that Irish Water have spent €317,000 on external PR since 2014. That figure does not include the spend on its own three-person, in-house PR team.

Tomorrow’s budget reportedly makes no provision for the end of water charges, a decision that could leave a €200 million black hole.

It makes no allowance for the possibility that water charges might not be reintroduced once the current suspension period ends in May, despite Fianna Fáil now calling for water to be funded through general taxation.

In June, Simon Coveney, the local government minister, introduced the Water Services Amendment Bill, suspending the collection of payments. He stressed that it would have no impact on Irish Water customers who were already in arrears.

“I hope the decision to have an assessment board and expert commission will help to depoliticise this issue,” he said at the time.

Irish Water Michael McNicholas, CEO of Irish Water's parent company Ervia. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Irish Water stopped billing domestic customers, including those who were in debt, following the amendment.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Irish Water said that households remain liable for any bills issued to date. It said:

Domestic customers remain liable for balances due on any bills issued to date and Irish Water continues to accept payment and to deal with any billing queries in relation thereto.

As part of the migration of non-Domestic accounts from local authorities, Irish Water will also take over responsibility for the management of credit and collections, the utility added.

“While procuring for non-domestic debt recovery, Irish Water has taken the precautionary measure of including the recovery of domestic debt in the tender to avoid the possibility of having to make an additional procurement pending decisions by the government.”

Read: Ireland’s water charges are among the lowest in Europe…*

Read: FactCheck: Does every other country in Europe have water charges?

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