While Senator Win Gatchalian commended the swift action taken by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) against the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), he warns other distribution utilities (DUs) that may have committed similar lapses such as failure to properly inform their subscribers about the charges.
The ERC recently issued a decision ordering Meralco to pay P19M for one, failing to indicate clearly that the March to May 2020 billings were “estimated”, and two, for failing to properly inform its consumers that the cumulative amount of electricity bill that was supposed to have fallen within the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period shall be amortized in four equal monthly installments.
Gatchalian pointed out the total penalty is almost P300M, citing the same ERC Decision that Meralco will have to set to zero the Distribution, Supply, and Metering (DSM) charges of each of the lifeline consumers whose monthly energy consumption does not exceed 100 kWh for one month cycle of billing. The discount to be provided to all lifeline consumers is estimated to be around P275M, based on the May 2020 records of ERC. This directive becomes effective in the next billing cycle immediately upon receipt of the ERC Decision.
“This should serve as a stern warning against all erring distribution utilities that might face the same consequences.”
“This should serve as a stern warning against all erring distribution utilities that might face the same consequences. Magsilbing leksyion sana ito sa iba pang distribution utilities sa bansa na hindi sumusunod sa mga panuntuan ng power regulator,” stressed the veteran legislator.
“Taking advantage of others in a time of crisis and pandemic deserves punishment.”
“Ang mga panggigipit at pananamantala sa panahon ng krisis at pandemya ay nararapat lamang na patawan ng karampatang kaparusahan. Maliit na halaga lamang, kung tutuusin, ang naturang multa kung ikukumpara sa idinulot na kalituhan at pasaning bayarin ng milyung-milyong residente lalo na yung may sapat lamang na kita araw-araw,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
The senator empathized with the millions of Meralco consumers as he himself complained of apparent bill shock over bills covering the ECQ period.
Aside from apparent miscalculated and inaccurate billing amounts, public outrage against Meralco also stemmed from technical problems in paying their bills, such as the P47 “convenience fee” charged for paying bills through its website or mobile app.
It can be recalled that in a hearing conducted by the Energy Committee, he grilled Meralco officials over “underestimation” and “overestimation” of electricity bills and asked the officials to send each consumer-household a separate clarificatory letter that showed exact previous readings.