ERC allows retail customers to switch power suppliers

In upholding greater public interest and to spare consumers from unwarranted power service interruptions, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has issued amended rules allowing big-ticket customers to change retail electricity suppliers (RES) even if they still have unresolved dispute with their existing power provider.

“Contestable customers already supplied by RES are now allowed to switch to other retail suppliers or to suppliers of last resort (SOLR) without the additional burden of securing clearances from current suppliers,” the regulatory body has emphasized in its statement to the media.

Contestable customers refer to end-users who can already contract and negotiate directly with their chosen power suppliers based on the terms set forth under the retail competition and open access (RCOA) policy of the deregulated power industry.

The ERC noted that “the review of the rules was triggered by ERC’s receipt of numerous complaints from contestable or large consumers against alleged rate adjustments implemented by their RES.”

Notably, more than 11,000 residents of the eight-cluster California Garden Square (CGS) condominium in Mandaluyong City had raised their concern to the ERC on a power disconnection threat by its retail supplier MPower, a subsidiary of Manila Electric Company (Meralco), due to unresolved dispute on fuel cost recovery adjustment (FCRA) that had unduly adjusted the rates being demanded by the RES.

The ERC primarily acknowledged that “contestable consumers claim that the rate adjustments are imposed with threats of disconnections in case of non-payment even as disputes are pending for resolution with the ERC or regular courts.”

Owing to that conundrum then, the ERC laid down rules modification to Resolution No. 9 Series of 2018 or the “Rules Supplementing the Switching and Billing Process and Adopting a Disconnection Policy for Contestable Consumers” – purposively to free up RES-served customers from getting hostaged by their power suppliers when there are unsettled concerns in their contracts.

“Under the amended rules, a contestable consumer already being served by a RES shall be allowed to switch to a new RES or SOLR, notwithstanding the existence of an outstanding balance,” the regulatory body stated.

The ERC qualified though that the rules still require the contestable customers to “remain responsible for the fulfillment of its lawful obligations with its incumbent RES.”

The rules further stipulated that “no consumer will be allowed to do the initial transfer to a RES from its distribution utility (DU) without first settling their accounts with the DU,” adding that “such consumers doing the initial switch to RES from their DUs shall be entitled to the refund of security or bill deposits.”

The prevailing threshold for customers that could be supplied by RES are those in the 500-kilowatt and higher consumption – and these are mainly commercial & industrial (C&I) as well as buildings like condominiums or corporate and government offices. ###