News : Irish Water Starts Calling Customers Who Fail to Pay Bills
Cork City, Cork, Aug 17, 2015 -- Irish Water has started calling customers who have failed to make any payments on their first two utility bills to remind them to pay the charges.
Irish Water spokeswoman Elizabeth Arnett said call centre staff last week began phoning customers who had yet to make any payments 21 days following the issuing of their second water bill.
The company had stated five weeks ago that it intended to take this step, which was normal practice "in every single utility company", she said. Ms Arnett denied suggestions made in some media that there was any targeting of older customers by the call centre staff.
"There is no age profiling, no targeting of older people. I absolutely categorically refute that, it is absolute nonsense."
She also emphasised the calls were being made by the company’s call centre, and the debts had not been passed on to a debt collection agency. Suggestions made by anti-water charge protesters that some elderly people had been told their water supply would be cut were also false, she said.
"We record every single phone call, this would not and could not happen."
Call centre staff offer customers the opportunity to pay over the phone, and outline the different payment methods to those who do not wish to pay at that time, she said.
While follow-up calling for non-payment of utility bills may be a common practice, the decision represents yet another public relations blunder for Irish Water. There have been a succession of incidents that have plagued the utility.
Questions were raised over executive remuneration and bonus payments. Head of Irish Water John Tierney revealed on RTÉ that the company had paid €50million to consultants. Then within weeks it emerged that 29 staff members earned more than €100,000 each.
ESRI economist John FitzGerald calculated that the extra 2,000 staff the company absorbed from local authorities would cost Irish Water up to €2 billion by 2025.
Two weeks ago Eurostat raised a number of concerns about the Government’s considerable control of the utility company. The EU statistics agency confirmed the company had failed the Market Corporation Test which means it must remain on the exchequer balance sheet in the coming years. It also took issue with Government control regarding board appointments and operations.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Irish Water Company:
Irish Water Ltd. is a water utility company in Ireland. The company was created by the Irish Government through the Water Services Act (2013), which formally created Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis, to provide "safe, clean and affordable water and waste water services" to water users in Ireland. Water and wastewater services were previously provided by local authorities in Ireland.
Published: Tuesday, August 18, 2015