8,000 Irish Water customers cancel direct debit payments

Utility saw big drop in revenue as customers stopped paying

Irish Water, treatment plants, Galway, rural, boil water notices, Paul Melia, Cork, Arklow

File photo of water running from a household tap | PA Images

Thousands of Irish Water customers have cancelled their direct debit payments since the start of the year, according to new figures. 

The embattled utility confirmed today that it saw a 21% fall in revenue from bills for the final three months of 2015, which were sent to customers in January and February of this year.

Irish Water's parent company, Ervia, said that 64% of customers had paid the charges at the end of its fourth billing cycle, which covered services for the last three months of 2015.

According to Ervia, 975,000 customers had paid "all or part of their bills" by the end of March. 

However, company revenue fell dramatically as debate over water charges intensified around the time of the general election. 

Money taken in from the fourth billing cycle added up to €33.4 million, compared to €42.3 million for the third, €38 million for the second and €30.5 million for the first.

Some 8,000 customers cancelled their direct debit mandate after receiving bills for the last three months of 2015, Irish Water confirmed. 

Payments received through all channels reduced during the month of March as the utility became the focus of minority government talks. 

Brendan Ogle from the Right2Water campaign said that the latest figures finally give a full sense of the scale of compliance with Irish Water.

"This brings the first billing year to an end," he explained on Newstalk Lunchtime. "It has been difficult for protesters, for payers and the media to deduce the actual figures. But I think now we can.

"Irish Water, in their first year of billing, were to collect €271 million. We now know that of that €271 million, they've collected €144 million - or 53%."

Irish Water figures have previously been dismissed as "spin" by Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy.

The TD said earlier this year that payment statistics were "utterly worthless" as they included those who paid just one or two bills before joining the anti-water charges movement.

Legislation to suspend water charges is due before the Dáil next month, but Irish Water has warned consumers that they are still liable for their bills until then. 

The company is currently issuing bills to customers for services provided in January, February and March of this year.