Belfast Telegraph

Consumer: Egg firm keeps head above water

By Claire McNeilly

No one should have to pay over the odds for goods or services. But that could easily have happened to Farmlay Eggs, an Armagh company, had it not been for help from the Consumer Council.

Fortunately, when the family-run business received a water bill for more than £1,500, Jonathan Thompson said it sought the watchdog's advice.

"We use quite a bit of water in our egg pasteurising plant, and given that production costs alone have soared in recent years, every pound and penny counts," said business manager Mr Thompson.

"We had been speaking to NI Water about our bill for a long time before we approached the Consumer Council, who managed to sort the issue very quickly.

"We also hadn't realised we were entitled to an allowance on our water rates. A lot of businesses are likely to be in a similar position."

An official investigation found that Farmlay Eggs had not received an allowance to which it was entitled from NI Water.

Subsequently, the company's bill was reduced by £1,400 to just £100.

That's why the Consumer Council is now urging other businesses to make sure they're not losing out after it emerged that only 22% of firms recently surveyed felt informed about bill allowances.

Kathy Graham, interim director of policy at the Consumer Council, said consumers have to apply to NI Water for the allowance with proof of business rates.

"It's free to apply and claims can be back-dated up to a maximum of six years. Any business or farm can contact the Consumer Council and we can make sure they are getting what they are entitled to.

"NI Water also promotes the availability of allowances in its annual summary of charges sent to all non-domestic customers, and through bill messaging."

The Consumer Council also provides online information to help farms and non-domestic water users calculate their water usage, save water and reduce their bills.

It can also work out average daily consumption (ADC), assessed charges and possible unmeasured charges.

* For further details about non-domestic water allowances or for a free copy of Every Drop Counts, a guide for businesses and farms to improve their water efficiency, then pay a visit to www. pions or telephone 0800 121 6022.

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