The CRU has an important role in regulating and protecting the interests of Irish Water customers. One of the key ways we protect customers is by putting in place a “rulebook’ for how Irish Water must deal with customers. We call this rulebook document the Water Customer Handbook.
The Handbook requires Irish Water to produce a number of Codes of Practice across different areas. These include issues such as customer communication, metering, billing, network operations, complaint handling and vulnerable customers. The Handbook also requires Irish Water to produce a Customer Charter. The Charter guarantees their Codes of Practice, setting out the services provided and service quality levels offered. It also must set out how they will compensate and refund customers when service quality levels are not met.
Irish Water must publish their Customer Charter and Codes of Practice on their website. Further information on Irish Waters’ Customer Charter or Codes of Practice can be found on the explanation page on the Irish Water website.
Know Your rights
In order to know your rights, you should review Irish Water’s Codes of Practice, this will ensure you know what standard of service you are entitled to when you have any dealings with them. We have included some of the key customer protection measures that exist for customers under each of the Codes and these are set out below.
Irish Water Customer Charter
Irish Water’s Customer Charter guarantees their Codes of Practice, setting out the services provided and service quality levels offered. The Customer Charter also sets out the specific areas where charter payments of €10 are applicable when service quality levels are not met.
Irish Water Codes of Practice
Code of Practice on Customer Communication
This code sets out the rules about how Irish Water will undertake communications with customers. Some of the key points are as follows:
- Irish Water must provide at least 2 days’ notice in advance of planned interruptions to normal supply to customers it anticipates will be affected.
- Where a boil water notice is issued Irish Water must communicate with customers it anticipates will be affected to inform them that it is not safe to drink the water. They must also provide information on the reason for the notice and the expected time it will be in place.
- Where Irish Water is providing an alternative water supply they must communicate information about the alternative supply to impacted customers.
- Unless requested by a customer or in the case of emergency, Irish Water cannot contact customers on Sundays and can only contact customers between 9am and 9pm weekdays and 9am to 7pm Saturdays.
- If they call to a customer’s premises they must show an identity card with their name and photograph.
Code of Practice on Metering for Domestic Customers
This code sets out the rules about how Irish Water will install and maintain domestic customer meters. Some of the key points are as follows:
- Irish Water must give customers at least 2 weeks’ notification before installing a meter and provide installation information.
- If any damage occurs to a customer’s property during meter installation, Irish Water will repair that damage free of charge to the customer.
- A customer can request a meter test. Where such a request is made Irish Water must conduct this test within a reasonable timeframe. The customer must be notified of any charge associated with the test.
Code of Practice on Billing for Domestic Customers
Currently, Irish Water are not issuing any bills to domestic customers. The provision of public domestic water services is funded through general taxation. However, in 2017, legislation was introduced which provides for charging of domestic customers that use excess quantities of water.
An annual household water allowance was set at 213,000 litres and customers who use above that allowance may be charged. This encourages households to conserve water and, where possible, identify and fix leaks in their water supply. This charge is known as the excess use charge. On 17 July 2019, the CRU, after carrying out a public consultation and considering the views of stakeholders, approved Irish Water’s excess use charging policy. Liable customers will be billed annually, with first bills being issued in 2022.
The CRU will amend the Code of Practice on Billing for Domestic Customers in due course to reflect the new excess use charging arrangements. In addition, the CRU will publish an updated Water Charges Plan to reflect excess use charging in due course. In late 2019 Irish Water will begin to contact customers who are using more than their annual allowance (approximately 1 in 10 customers). These customers will be given an opportunity to reduce their usage before receiving a first official notice that they may be liable for the charge if usage does not decrease. The first excess use bills, covering the previous 12-month period, will be issued to customers in 2021. For further information see the CRU decision paper (CRU/19/086).
Code of Practice on Vulnerable Domestic Customers
A vulnerable customer in relation to water supply is someone that is either:
- critically dependant – critically dependant on water for their medical needs, or
- someone who for reasons that may include advanced age or physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health, requires additional support communicating with, or receiving services from, Irish Water.
If you or any member of your household meets the above definition, you should contact Irish Water to register as a vulnerable customer.
The Code sets out the additional requirements that Irish Water have for how they engage with registered vulnerable customers. Some of the key points that are included in the code are as follows:
- When there is a planned interruption, Irish Water must contact vulnerable customers expected to be impacted directly at least 2 days beforehand. Irish Water must also make an alternative water supply available where possible for the customer if this is required.
- If there is an unplanned interruption (where the interruption is anticipated to last longer than four hours) Irish Water shall contact all registered vulnerable customers that are expected to be impacted directly to inform them of the interruption, to discuss any critical needs they may have and how Irish Water can help.
- If there is a boil water notice issued, Irish Water must contact all registered priority services customers directly to inform them that it is not safe to drink the water. They must also inform them how long they expect the notice to apply and what alternative arrangements are in place.
- Irish Water must provide a simple method for customers to register a third party representative on their account.
Code of Practice on Network Operations
This code is about Irish Water’s water and wastewater networks. It covers how customers can access information on connecting to the network and the levels of service customers can expect from their connections to the wider networks. Some of the key points that are included in the code are as follows:
- Irish Water must include guidance on their website about the ownership of pipes connecting a customer to the network. They must also engage with a customer requesting clarification of pipework ownership at their property within 3 working days of receiving the request, and provide an answer within a reasonable timeframe.
- Where a customer has notified Irish Water of a fault on their network, they must respond to the customer within 2 working days and give an outline of their planned action in relation to the fault.
- Where a customer’s property is flooded due to a failure of an Irish Water network assed, Irish Water will attend the property affected within 4 hours of the notification and attempt to stop the flooding. Where it can be proven that an Irish Water asset had failed and caused damage to a property then Irish Water must engage with the customer to agree how to resolve the issue and repair any damage.
- If a customer has reduced water pressure, they can request an investigation by Irish Water. Irish Water shall supply information as to the likely cause of the pressure reduction or agree to investigate the cause within 5 working days.
Code of Practice on Complaint Handling
Irish Water must provide an easy process for customers to use when they are experiencing difficulties. Some of the key points that are included in the code are as follows:
- Irish Water must accept complaints from recognised agencies or third parties who are confirmed as acting on behalf of the customer.
- Irish Water must provide the customer with a satisfactory explanation of their issue, an apology or some form of compensation (where appropriate).
- There must be at least one level for customers to escalate their complaint.
- Customers must receive a response to the complaint in 5 working days with a resolution or an outline of the steps required to achieve a resolution. In all cases the complaints process should lead to a final decision within two months.
- When a customer completes their supplier’s complaints handling process, the customer must receive confirmation of closure of their complaint.
- Customers who have completed Irish Water’s complaint handling process are entitled to raise the complaint with the CRU.
The CRU offers a free dispute resolution service for customers with an unresolved complaint against their supplier or network operator. For information about how to log a complaint with the CRU, go to the complaints page.
Please note that the CRU cannot assist you in relation to complaints about water quality or pollution incidents. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibility for this area. To find out more about the EPA and how to make a complaint to them, please visit the Water Quality page on our website, for further information.
Non Domestic Customers
Irish Water are also required to produce Codes of Practice for the service standards they guarantee for non-domestic customers. Below is a list of the Codes they must produce for non-domestic customers:
- Code of Practice on Customer Communication
- Code of Practice on Metering
- Code of Practice on Billing
- Code of Practice on Network Operations
- Code of Practice on Complaints Handling