Why is Irish Water in the news again today?

Irish Water is today launching a dedicated website page to assist householders in receiving water charges refunds.

Why are customers being refunded?

Water charges convulsed the political agenda for a number of years and saw thousands of people take to the streets to protest against paying the charges.

When the current minority Government was formed under the Confidence and Supply deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, it was agreed to re-evaluate the controversial charges.

An all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services agreed that they should be scrapped except in cases of excessive water usage.

Given that almost one million people had paid some or all of their water charges, it was agreed that they must be treated in the same way as those who did not pay. So it was decided that full refunds should be issued.

Who is being refunded?

Approximately 990,0000 householders who have paid water charges are due to receive a payment from Irish Water refunding them the total amount they paid before the charges were suspended.

How will the refunds be issued?

It is estimated that €173m will be refunded to customers and payments will be made via cheque.

The cheques will be posted to the account holder at the address they provided to Irish Water.

Why is the money being issued by cheque?

Irish Water says this is the quickest and most efficient means of payment.

It also provides the highest level of security by ensuring that only the account holder can lodge the cheque and Irish Water can cancel any cheques sent to incorrect addresses or individuals.

Cheques are also being used to ensure that Irish Water will not need to have account holders’ bank account details.

Irish Water has stressed that customers can be very clear that at no time will anyone from the utility contact them looking for those details.

Do customers need to contact Irish Water to get their refunds?

Customers are being advised to contact the utility if their address has changed and they have yet to update their details.

It is important to note that if a customer's address or personal details have not changed that they will not have to contact Irish Water to get their refund.

Refunds will made via cheque to the account holder at the address they provided to Irish Water.

When will people receive their cheque?

Irish Water says it is ready to start the refund process immediately and 30,000 cheques a day will be issued.

But it cannot begin that process until the Oireachtas passes the Water Services Bill. That bill has passed some stages in the Dáil. It is due for Report Stage debate next Tuesday, 7 November, when the Dáil returns from its Halloween break.

When passed in the Dáil, it will proceed to the Seanad where it will have to pass all stages before it becomes law. It is expected that this process will be completed in a fortnight.

Were people not told they would receive their refunds by Christmas?

Yes. During a Sunday newspaper interview in July, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated that he anticipated that everyone would be refunded "before the end of the year".

But the Taoiseach and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy have also indicated that the payment of refunds would be contingent on the necessary legislation passing through the Oireachtas.

What is the Taoiseach saying about the refunds now?

Speaking about delays in Irish Water customers receiving refunds, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told RTÉ News in Seattle this evening: "I think what I said was as soon as possible and ideally before the end of the year.

"But what we always said, both Minister [for Housing Eoghan] Murphy and I, was that the refunds were contingent on the legislation passing through the Dáil and Seanad where we don't have a majority as a Government. We are a minority Government."

"Irish Water is ready. They can start the refunds right away. They can refund up to 30,000 customers a day.

"The only thing that is holding up the refund now is the fact that the Water Services Bill hasn't gone through the Dáil and Seanad.

"I really would call on Sinn Féin and some of the left-wing parties and independents who aren't supporting the legislation to change their minds to support it. Let's get it through in the next week or two and start the refunds right away."

What is Irish Water saying about the refunds?

Irish Water's head of Customer Strategy and Capacity has said that some customers, who paid water charges, will not be refunded before Christmas.

Yvonne Harris said this was due to a delay in legislation to issue refunds.

She told RTÉ's Morning Ireland: "The delay in the legislation passing has caused us an issue. Once the legislation is passed we are ready to produce cheques and we're ready to start issuing those cheques.

"Our plan, at the moment, is to start producing 30,000 cheques per night and we are comfortable we could increase that number.

"However there are a number of other constraints. We have to consider our governance and there are other key stake holders, such as An Post who will deliver the cheques, and the banks who will lodge them."

Ms Harris said customers can check the amount that they paid/how much they are due back from Irish Water online.

What is the total cost of the refunds?

In July, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that refunding water charges will cost the Exchequer €178m, including €5m in administrative costs.

According to figures released to RTÉ News last month under the Freedom of Information Act, the administrative costs associated with refunding water charges are expected to be €5.87 million.