Meralco targets prepaid service early next year

By Paul Anthony A. Isla, Business Mirror

Posted at Sep 19 2011 09:10 AM | Updated as of Sep 19 2011 10:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Power retailer Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) plans to introduce prepaid electricity early next year, Alfredo Panlilio, the company’s senior vice president for customer-retail services and corporate communications, said on Friday.

Panlilio said Meralco is evaluating proposals for implementing the service along the guidelines issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Prepaid electricity has been in operation in countries such as South Africa and Indonesia, and more recently in India, Australia and New Zealand, he said. In South Africa and Indonesia consumers use tokens and a meter with numbered keys where a code is punched in.

“What will make Meralco’s implementation different is our leveraging on the strength of prepaid telecoms in the Philippines. The Filipino’s love affair with his prepaid mobile is a powerful vehicle we will ride on, making the Philippine implementation somewhat unique versus the early adopters of the service,” Panlilio said.

Meralco and Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) are both controlled by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

The purchase of Meralco prepaid electricity will be the same as mobile-phone loading; a consumer provides the store his mobile number and the store loads that number through text messaging. The consumer then gets a confirmation text, saying that his meter is loaded, and electricity is immediately provided.

When the load is running low, Panlilio said, the consumer also gets a warning text, approximately four days before the electricity is cut off.

Panlilio said households that find prepaid a better system to match their income with their expenses will like this service because it makes control of expenses simple.

Lessors and lessees are also potential customers since the prepaid service eliminates the persistent issue of lessees leaving behind bills.

Panlilio said existing good-use practices might be adapted by local government units (LGUs), corporations, and small and medium enterprises. LGUs that want to adhere to strict budgetary guidelines, or companies looking to separate corporate-use facilities versus staff and personal-use areas, may prefer to use prepaid.

“We are studying all these possibilities to provide our customers with options to suit their needs,“ he said. “We continue to understand our customers better, scan innovations around the world and adapt them Filipino-style to be of better service and relevance here.”