Chambers Ireland has made a submission to the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) asking them to be more flexible in how business consumers are billed as part of Irish Water’s Non-Domestic Tariff Framework.
The CRU has made recommendations that Irish Water should be extremely strict and inflexible with their business customers in two key areas.
Firstly, about assigning and switching tariff classes, and secondly about leaks.
The CRU proposals would see businesses charged on the basis of the previous year’s consumption and upon receiving their harmonised bill these businesses will then have to argue that they should be reassigned to a different tariff.
On leaks, the CRU is seeking to transfer all risks that relate to a premises onto the occupier and would in some cases disallow any rebate for leakage.
Speaking yesterday (20th April), Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Chambers Ireland has called on the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to amend their proposed regulations which relate to the billing of Irish Water’s business clients.
As part of the move to harmonise water charges across the country, a move that will in its own right increase pressures on a large number of businesses, the CRU is also proposing billing changes which have the potential to gravely affect struggling businesses in these trying times.
There are two principle problems with these proposals.
Firstly the CRU’s proposals will have businesses paying for their water at rates which are based on last year’s usage. With so many businesses closed this will put many businesses into an inappropriate category which will force many businesses to challenge the new charges, a prospect which could bring the harmonisation process into disrepute.
Then, next year, upon resuming business as normal post Covid-19, these same businesses will have to challenge their bills a second time, because 2020’s consumption is likely to be completely unrepresentative.
The second issue is that the Commission is seeking to transfer all the risk associated with on-site water leakages onto the business customers of Irish water. Chambers Ireland believes that the challenges of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, reveal how inflexible this move is, and how the regulations should allow for circumstances which are outside of the customer’s control.
Across the country, many businesses are not free to maintain, or perhaps even access, their business premises. Key workers may be cocooned. 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.”