Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (423, 463, 464, 465)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

423. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to include in the forthcoming consumer protection and competition Bill provisions to mandate the amalgamated National Consumer Agency and Competition Authority to play a statutory role, which is fully resourced, in independently promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers who will be negatively impacted by the introduction of household water charges. [5387/14]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

463. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the National Consumer Agency, as the statutory body responsible in law for promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers, was formally and directly consulted by him in relation to the introduction of legislation to establish the water service utility, Irish Water, and the introduction of household water charges. [5234/14]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

464. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the National Consumer Agency, as the statutory body responsible in law, at this time, for promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers, has been given any statutory mandate by him to act as the independent consumer voice as part of the water reform process. [5235/14]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

465. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has asked the National Consumer Agency, in line with its legal functions as the statutory body responsible in law for promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers, to undertake independent analysis in relation to the future delivery of water services and the likely impact on consumers of funding these services through household water charges. [5236/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 423 and 463 to 465, inclusive, together.

The Water Services Act 2013 require the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), as the new independent economic regulator of Irish Water, to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. This is similar to the CER's statutory role in respect of the gas and electricity sectors. The CER will be responsible for approving the water charges plans prepared by Irish Water, and for approving codes of practice to be prepared by Irish Water. The codes of practice will cover matters such as the standard of performance by Irish Water of its functions; the provision of information by Irish Water to its customers; and the making of complaints by its customers.

The CER also has powers to direct Irish Water to prepare a code of practice on any matter that the CER considers necessary and appropriate to secure the interests of the customers of Irish Water. Moreover, the CER has the power to direct Irish Water to comply with a code of practice prepared in accordance with the legislation. In discharging its functions, the CER may consult with Irish Water, the public, or any other person it considers appropriate.  The Commission has already undertaken public consultations on the development of the economic regulatory framework for water services and will be undertaking further consultations during 2014.  

The National Consumer Agency participated in the consultation on the establishment of a water services utility during 2012 and submitted proposals to my Department which were considered in detail.