ERC to debut online consumer-complaint portal by next month

At a glance

  • The CCTS portal of the ERC will empower consumers to raise complaints and grievances with just a few clicks on their digital devices; and they can also expect speedy resolution of these concerns.

As rising electric bills and deteriorating services of power utilities often spark frustration and rage, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is targeting to debut next month its online platform to fast track resolution of complaints.

The online platform will receive and correspondingly process consumer-complaints so these can be resolved faster and must ideally be done with guarantee of satisfaction on the part of the aggrieved party.

The ERC said the platform will introduce its self-designed automated Consumer Complaints Ticket ID System (CCTS), which will serve as its toolbox to unchain consumers from the misery of poor utility services as well as provide a seamless avenue of resolving complaints.

The regulatory body emphasized that its own online portal will complement the government-wide apparatus when it comes to tackling citizens’ grumbles over governance concerns – including those on red tape and corruption - which are being channeled through the 8888 Citizens’ Complaint Hotline.

As explained, the CCTS platform, which had been on beta testing since June last year, is a “web-based portal that monitors and records all consumer complaints lodged through e-mail, SMS (short messaging system)  and web-based messaging applications,” including those that are sent through viber, whatsapp, messenger or skype channels.

Through the CCTS, the industry regulator would be able to “assign a specific ticket ID to every complaint, allowing consumers, DUs (distribution utilities) and ERC to track and monitor the status of the complaints for quick reference and speedy resolution.”

“The full-scale launch of the CCTS is scheduled for July 2023,” the regulatory body noted. Essentially, this will allow consumers to voice their concerns or grievances with just a few clicks on their digital devices, albeit there is that major requirement on the part of the ERC, that its information technology (IT) gateway must ensure user-friendly interface.

For the more pressing concerns of electric bills, it will also help a great deal if the industry regulator could draw up data-driven analysis of the complaints submitted – primarily on recurring issues or patterns as well as systemic errors; then in the process, it must be able to employ such algorithm in resolving future complaints that will be filed before it for action.

As the agency is still improving on its overall digitalization game plan, ERC Chairperson Monalisa C. Dimalanta acknowledged that “we know we have a long way to go, but the ERC is fully committed to addressing consumer concerns despite our agency’s limitations,” adding that “we actively use these complaints as opportunities to identify systemic issues and find ways to improve industry practices.”

On consumer-complaints lodged through the 8888 citizens’ complaint hotline, the ERC vouched that it received recognition from the Office of the President for posting ‘zero backlog’ and it was able to throw light on all of the concerns raised within January-April 2023 period, in keeping with its role as a regulator of the power sector.

“The ERC promptly addressed all 48 tickets within 72 hours,” it stressed, while specifying that Consumer Affairs Service (CAS) Acting Director Gregorio L. Ofalsa had been the designated focal person overseeing concerns raised via the government-underpinned angst hotline.

It qualified that “most of the citizens’ concerns were on the slow process of electricity reconnection, billing issues, meter readings, damaged lines, relocation of electric poles, and power interruption.”

Dimalanta highlighted “by analyzing the root cause behind the complaint, the Commission fosters an environment of transparency and responsiveness, and promotes the principle of energy democracy,” or that mechanism allowing greater public participation on the broader functioning of the energy sector.

She reiterated though “there is much to be done in the sector especially as our power system evolves into a low-carbon future. We need all hands on deck - the State, regulator, investors, and consumers.”