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BILL SHOCK | Regulator orders power utilities to refund overpayments
July 9, 2020 , 11:08 AM

(July 09, 2020) – The country’s energy regulatory agency has ordered the country’s largest power distribution company to refund excessive charges to consumer power bills for the months that the Philippines was placed under strict lockdown.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has said it has been receiving tens of thousands of complaints from consumers complaining of high electricity bills during the lockdown months.

The “bill shock” were for the months the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and other electric cooperatives failed to make a meter reading to charge consumers of actual consumption.

In an order, dated Tuesday and was released on Thursday, the ERC directed distribution utilities and electric cooperatives to refund overpayments made by consumers, arising from monthly billings that used estimated consumptions and verified against actual meter readings.

The problem of high electricity bills was not only experienced in the Philippines.

Power rates also increased from 20 percent to 30 percent in other Southeast Asian countries since the lockdown in March.

Distribution utility Meralco has earlier explained they had used estimated readings during the lockdown, since their personnel could not go out to conduct actual meter readings.

Meralco President Ray Espinosa apologized in a Senate hearing on Monday, and promised they would clarify to consumers which are estimates and which are actual readings.

Refunds were also mandated for overpayments resulting from the non-implementation of the installment payment scheme prescribed by the ERC.

Last April, the energy regulator ordered the four to six month installment to pay for power bills during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Feed-in tariff allowance (FIT-ALL) and universal charge-environmental charges (UC-EC) for those two months should also be refunded.

However, consumers also have the option to convert their refunds to credits in their immediate future billings.

Distribution utilities and electric cooperatives are required to submit their reports on overbillings by month and the refunds undertaken on or before August 15.

The ERC also mandated that Cebu province, particularly places under ECQ, should not be subject to disconnection until September 2020.

Meralco also vowed to extend their period of no disconnection until September 30. (Katrina Elaine Alba/MM)

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