Manila Electric Co. assured lawmakers that customers are only charged for electricity they actually consumed and pledged that the Philippines’ largest power distributor will clarify concerns caused by estimated bills between March and May, the period when the government imposed an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meralco President Atty. Ray C. Espinosa told the Senate Committee on Energy headed by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian that a clarificatory letter will be sent out to customers soon, particularly those whose meters were read in May but whose bills contain a ‘previous reading that is actually based on estimated March and/or April consumption.
“But let me assure the chair and the committee members, and the public that there is no intention on the part of Meralco to charge a customer and have that customer pay more than the actual consumption registered in the meter,” said Atty. Espinosa. He pointed out that Meralco strictly adheres to government rules as implemented by the ERC.
Atty. Espinosa apologized for Meralco’s “short comings…as far as the May bills are concerned…(which) has really caused confusion because of estimates.”
Meralco had earlier issued several explanations through various traditional and social media platforms to detail the bill estimations done for March, April and, in some cases, May in compliance with the Energy Regulatory Commission rules for cases when meter readers can’t be deployed. Even with Meralco’s earlier bulletins, a number of the power distributor’s over six million customers still complained given the shock caused by charges for several months that are lumped together.
Senator Risa Hontiveros appreciated Meralco’s decision to allow customers to settle the bills during the quarantine period in equal installments of up to six months as advised by the ERC, but underscored the confusion caused by letters sent to customers in June.
Atty. Espinosa said Meralco even went beyond the coverage of ERC’s advisory, which only starts from Mar. 16 and ends on May 31. He said Meralco even included customer bills due from Mar. 1.
He also said that Meralco has implemented a moratorium on service disconnection until Sept. 30 this year. Atty. Espinosa also announced that the company will now shoulder the Meralco Online convenience fee for online payments, for the entire ECQ and GCQ period, and will correspondingly refund the amount paid by customers when they previously settled their electricity bills.