MERALCO extends 'no disconnection' period until Sept. 30

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 02 2020 03:33 PM | Updated as of Jul 02 2020 11:20 PM

Meralco personnel clean the power lines of ash fall along Mahogany Avenue in Tagaytay City on January 14, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - (UPDATE) Consumers now have until the end of September before Meralco disconnects services for unpaid electricity bills that piled up during the enhanced community quarantine.

In Thursday’s inquiry of the House Committee on Energy into the spike in electricity bills, Meralco president and CEO Ray Espinosa agreed to extend the ban on power disconnection until Sept. 30 this year.

“We take note of the suggestion and request. We will extend the no disconnection until September 30 of this year,” Espinosa responded.

Meralco said it is also open to further extending this after some lawmakers and a consumer group said people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic will still have difficulty paying their bills despite the extension. 

“Currently we are granting until Sept. 30, but we are aware of the plight of our kababayan. We will be sensitive and we will take a look once we get closer to Sept. 30,” Meralco first vice president Victor Genuino said.

CONSUMER COMPLAINTS

Energy Committee Chairman Rep. Lord Allan Velasco meanwhile, asked Meralco to answer complaints about uninhabited residences or non-operational business establishments, which were incorrectly billed for electricity consumption.

Meralco said this was due to the "estimation method" it used because it could not do an actual meter reading during the ECQ. But it assured consumers that the billing will be corrected, and that payments made due to overestimation will be refunded. 

The company also answered complaints about bill payments that were not credited and were still charged in subsequent bills. Meralco said this was due to the “timing” of the bills' release.

“They may not have been reflected in the bills in question, but if they were received duly by our system, they are certainly in the system and will be reflected in the proper accounting of payments made to each and every customer,” Espinosa said.

The Energy Regulatory Commission meanwhile, has ordered distribution utilities including Meralco to submit copies of bills from suppliers as it looks into complaints on electricity bills.

The ERC said it received 1,196 individual complaints against distribution utilities. 

“It’s not just Meralco. The complaints really are nationwide, practically. And in response to all these, we have one entire department and another division that are responding to this,” said ERC chair Agnes Devanadera.