Meralco slapped with P19-million fine for billing violations: regulator

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 27 2020 03:03 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2020 04:09 PM

A lineman from an electric company takes a rest after working on electricity meters in Manila on May 13, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Energy Regulatory Commission said Thursday it imposed a P19-million fine on Manila Electric Company for violating advisories released for bills covering the COVID-19 quarantine period.

The fine was imposed for Meralco's failure to indicate that bills were estimated and for failure to comply with the mandated installment payment arrangement, the ERC said in a statement, citing a decision dated Aug. 20.

Based on ERC's evaluation, Meralco incurred a total number of 190 days of violations. The Commission said the penalty of P100,000 was multiplied by the number of infractions committed, resulting in a P19 million total dues.

"Meralco's neglect to provide accurate and timely information especially during this time of pandemic has created chaos and confusion to most of the electricity consuming public...This serious neglect by Meralco resulted to a multitude of complaints filed by consumers to this commission," ERC chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera said.

Meralco was also ordered to set to zero the distribution supply and metering charges of consumers whose monthly energy consumption does not exceed 100kwh, which will provide relief to more than 2 million consumers.

Meralco earlier suspended meter reading when a lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. It employed an averaging scheme in bills, which resulted in "bill shocks" for consumers who received excessively high electric rates.

The ERC ordered the utility distributor to re-issue meter-based electric bills in June, to refund excess payments and to implement a staggered payment system to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 to consumers.

Advisories were issued "to provide respite from the various financial woes of consumers," Devanadera said.

Meralco earlier said it would extend its "no disconnection" policy until the end of October.