Meralco pays ₱19-M fine, implements hefty discounts to 2.77 M lifeline customers

Published September 21, 2020, 1:41 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has already paid the ₱19-million fine earlier imposed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for its failure to establish a mandatory bill installment payment plan for customers during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), among other violations.


Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel bared this Monday, an act he described as showing “good corporate citizenship.”

“Meralco’s action demonstrates good corporate citizenship that should be emulated by all firms in highly regulated sectors, especially those enjoying exclusive congressional franchises,” Pimentel, a deputy speaker, said.

But Pimentel said Meralco needs to clarify one thing, though.

Pimentel said he also expects Meralco to overhaul its “unfair” portal wherein customers paying their electricity bills online are automatically captured by sister firm Paymaya Philippines Inc. and then slapped a P47 “convenience fee” for the transaction.

Meralco has since suspended the convenience fee and has since refunded customers who previously paid the charge.

However, it remains unclear whether Meralco will eventually restore or forever do away with the much-panned convenience fee once the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Meralco was fined the eight-digit sum last month for failing to clearly explain to customers that their monthly bills during the initial lockdown period were merely estimated, and not based on actual meter readings.

Officials of the power distribution giant had told a House inquiry that it was unable to send out meter readers during the ECQ.

As a result of Meralco’s lack of care, the ERC said customers received the exorbitantly priced bills for the April 18 to May 17 billing cycle, which mainstream media has termed as “bill shocks.”

Discounts for lifeline customers

Meanwhile, roughly 2.77 million lifeline Meralco customers will experience discounts ranging from ₱114 to ₱206 in their electric bills next month, in line with the utility firm’s implementation of part of the sanctions enforced upon it by the ERC.

Based on the company’s calculation, if the distribution, supply, and metering (DSM) charges of the lifeline users will be set to zero, the total discount for households with 100 kilowatt hours (kwhs) of consump-
tion will be as much as ₱206.47; while those in the 70kwh level can enjoy
discount of ₱151.05.

Further, the marginalized consumers with usage of 50 kwh will be freed of paying ₱114.10 worth of DSM charges in their electric bills next month.

“The said retail rate discount will provide temporary economic relief to more than 2.0 million lifeline consumers and their family members at least for a month,” the ERC has stated in its ruling.

Meralco stated that it will reflect the mandated retail rate discounts to lifeline customers in its October billing.

The company noted that while it filed a motion for partial reconsideration with respect to the ordered discounts to lifeline end-users, it will still implement the ERC directive even while its pleading is still at its pendency.

Last month, ERC ordered Meralco to extend aggregate discount of P200 million plus to all of its lifeline consumers. This shall cover end-users with base consumption of zero to 100 kilowatt hours.

Based on the regulatory body’s calculation, the DSM comprised of 22.4 percent of the total retail rate being billed to consumers on a monthly basis. (With a report from Myrna M. Velasco)