Pure water companies have been hit with billions in fines and other penalties over alleged breaches of water legislation by their customers, as part of a $US8.4 billion settlement.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced the $US4.2 billion settlement on Tuesday, saying that companies must now make water available at reasonable cost to consumers and businesses.
“Pure water companies are subject to enforcement actions under the Competition and Privacy Act,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
“They are also subject to the Consumer Protection and Consumer Lending Act.”
Read more:Consumer groups and water providers have called on the government to repeal the water company levy, which is now set to expire in 2021.
“We are committed to ensuring that consumers are fully aware of the risks and penalties they can expect when their water is not provided at reasonable prices,” ACCS general manager of policy and public affairs John Fuchs said.
“Consumers should be aware that they are subject in some cases to a water company’s ‘water levy’ if they are in breach of water-related rules.”
The ACCC’s Mr Sims said it was important for consumers to understand what the water companies levy entails, and to understand whether their water bills were affected by water-services company compliance.
“It’s important for the consumer to understand the terms and conditions that apply to the levy and whether that water company will pay the levy, and whether or not the water provider has complied with the water levy,” Mr Sims told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“If the water has not been delivered to the customer within the time periods specified in the terms of the levy they can be liable for the levy.”
The Australian Consumer Law Reform Act 2014 introduced a new water company levies scheme, which allows water companies to impose a levy on customers that is calculated on the value of the water service.
The ACCCs levy is based on the amount of water customers use to heat their homes.
The levy is not based on how much water is used in a given day, but rather on how long it takes the customer to heat his or her home.
The scheme is also based on whether the water customer pays for the water.
The water company charges a levy of 2.9 per cent of a customer’s bill, which amounts to $US1.50 for every 100 litres of water used.
The levy is meant to encourage people to buy a water plan, but there are also other charges that the ACCCs can impose, including a $1,000 surcharge if a customer does not pay their bill.
Mr Sims said the ACCC would continue to look at ways to increase transparency and provide more information to consumers.
“The ACC is committed to making sure that all water customers are aware of what is in the water bills,” he said.