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SoNA 2020

Meralco cushions Bill shock



MERALCO linemen keep the lights on while keeing our bills down. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MERALCO

We are one with government and regulator to find a way to work together and help those who are suffering because of the pandemic,” Atty. William S. Pamintuan, Senior Vice President at Meralco, assured Congress in the 15 July Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability Meeting.

Pamintuan also reiterated that Meralco will continue to work 24/7 to energize its franchise area and explain to customers their bills.

“The Meralco electricity bill includes many components, including the distribution rate, transmission, generation, taxes and other charges,” Pamintuan explained. “The distribution rate of Meralco, like transmission, is regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission. The generation charge is based on contracts and Wholesale Energy Spot Market.”

Meralco has, to date, explained the formula or computation its customers can use to calculate their consumption during the estimated period.

The utility company also has conducted actual meter readings and assured its customers that, “if we have read their meters, they only pay for what they consumed.”

Meter reading costs not incurred during the ECQ/MECQ period for 6.7 million customers’ bills amounting to P64 million were refunded beginning 15 July 2020.

Meralco has also informed the customers of the company’s installment scheme through their bills. Following the ERC’s advisories, Meralco gave extended payment deadlines, so that customers may avail themselves of as much as six months of installment.

Meralco assures that they have fully complied to all relevant ERC and DoE directives on billing, payment extension and installment payments during ECQ/MECQ/GCQ.

Meralco also gave separate billing sheets and letters of explanation for those who have received their May and June actual meter readings. A total of 4.1 million letters to customers clarifying their May 2020 bills based on actual meter readings were sent. The status of billing adjustments was also reflected on the bills delivered to customers in June.

Meralco also advised that it would not disconnect its service in case the customers’ bills were unpaid during the ECQ period.

The issuance of disconnection notices and disconnection of services due to unpaid bills will be on-hold until 30 September 2020.

The Meralco customers who used the Meralco online app to pay for their bills would be absolved of the usual convenience fees.

Meralco has also refunded the convenience fee charged for Meralco Online transactions during the ECQ period amounting to P12.6 million. They will also continue to shoulder the convenience fees until the end of GCQ.

Meralco said it would give meter reading refund for the unread meters during ECQ, while customers who were able to pay their estimated March and April billing were advised that they could refund their payments at Meralco business centers should they wish to avail themselves of the installment payment arrangement.

Pamintuan also assured that Meralco provides subsidized lifeline rates to marginalized end users that are lower than what is usually charged to ordinary residential customers to aid the marginalized.

The queuing at Meralco business centers was also organized and manpower complement to shorten lines of customers who pay at the branches. The electricity distributor has also deployed virtual customer complaints agents in select Bayad Center outlets within its franchise area. Affected customers can talk to the Meralco agent about their billing concerns via computer setup.

Meralco continues to augment its capacity to respond to customer concerns received through their hotline, SMS and social media accounts. They currently have 568 voice call agents, 1,119 digital agents and 886 employee volunteers.

Meralco also published print ads in broadsheets and tabloids to aid in explaining the May and June bills to the customers, and clarified issues through traditional media outfits (TV and radio), social media and forums and webinars.