ERC still swamped with over 55,000 unresolved consumer-complaints

Published October 16, 2020, 5:25 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has admitted before a Senate Committee on Energy hearing that it is still swamped with more than 55,000 of unresolved consumer-complaints that were lodged before it from March to October this year.

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

The regulatory body indicated out of the 63,458 email-complaints it received, it was just able to resolve 3,370 cases; while 2,993 complaints had been classified as ‘closed’ cases.

Of the active cases, the ERC noted that 32,308 complaints have been referred to the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and have been awaiting reply from complainants; while 23,508 complaints are under negotiation between the concerned distribution utilities (DUs) and the aggrieved consumers.

The industry regulator emphasized the influx of complaints happened after the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March to May this year — when estimated billings had been resorted to because the meter readers had been restricted then to carry out field work.

The ERC fleshed out that the average number of email-complaints it received daily since the ECQ had been: 673 in May to June; 480 in August; and 159 in September.

There had been no definitive timeframe given yet on when the regulatory body can fully resolve or decide on all the consumer-complaints filed before it for action.

Nevertheless, ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera asserted that as industry regulators, they will continue to explore measures on how they can further reduce rates that consumers will pay for in their electric bills.

“We owe it to the government and to the consuming public to find ways to bring down the cost of electricity,” Devandera stressed; with her noting that electricity as a basic necessity “should be made accessible and affordable to all Filipinos.”

At the height of the pandemic, the ERC said it initiated several measures to bring down the rates for consumers – including temporary suspension of the pass-on of feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) and universal charges line items in the bills; the adjustment in net settlement surplus and the reduction of the market transaction fees of the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), among others.

Devanadera qualified the ERC “has been advocating for the promotion and protection of consumers’ interests, most especially during these challenging times, to ensure that they only pay what is just and reasonable.”

Given that, she noted that the regulatory body “operationalized various forms of rate relief to lessen the burden of electricity consumers considering the economic limitations, such as work stoppage, caused by the pandemic.”