Ilocos power utility to refund P480 M to customers

Published February 23, 2022, 4:32 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC) will refund its customers P480 million-worth of over-recoveries from bill collections that accrued from years 2004 to 2010.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said the refund to INEC customers is based on a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that affirmed its earlier decision on the estimated over-recoveries by the utility firm.

According to ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera, “the Supreme Court’s decision is not only a victory for ERC, but more importantly a victory for the consumers.”

She further pointed out “this shows that our regulatory policies have the consumers’ welfare in mind – that is to protect their interests by ensuring that what was charged and collected from them are but reasonable and accurate rates.”

Ilocos power utility to refund P480 M to customers

By MYRNA M. VELASCO

The ERC noted that it uncovered the over-recoveries of the Ilocos power utility in a decision it handed down in 2011. However, the mandated refund process stalled for years because of the protracted legal battles that ensued after that.

The regulatory body narrated that INEC first lodged its application in 2011 to refund over-recoveries of just P8.0 million to its customers, but the ERC evaluation process of the ERC was able to establish that the aggregate over-collections to be returned to its customers were actually higher – at the scale of P480 million.

That then triggered the legal scuffle as INEC questioned the ERC ruling at the Court of Appeals. After losing its appeal, INEC elevated its case to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the ERC decision.

ERC conveyed that in the SC ruling, it was laid down that “findings of administrative or regulatory agencies on matters within their technical area of expertise are generally accorded not only respect but finality as such findings are supported by substantial evidence.”

The industry regulator also pointed out SC’s specific stipulation that “the CA has correctly ruled that INEC cannot demand the ERC to intricately explain its decision as long as it had sufficiently shown the bases and formulae used for computing the over-recoveries and provided INEC with ample opportunity to raise its objections (to the case).”

Given the affirmation that ERC had gotten from the judicial rulings, Devanadera opined that

“ERC’s regulatory policies have been proven to be robust, legally-defensible, and consumer-oriented.”

She, thus, stressed that “we will always adhere to our mandate of protecting all consumers and promote public welfare as they are affected by the rates and services of distribution utilities and other providers of electric power, and that is consumer empowerment.”

 
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