MANILA - The Manila Electric Co (Meralco) on Monday said consumers who paid their March to May bills in full may get a refund should they opt to settle payments on an installment basis.
The Energy Regulatory Commission earlier said households consuming below 200 kilowatt hour (kWh) should be allowed to pay their bills in 6-month installments, while those using more than the 200 kWh may settle their dues in 4-month staggered payments.
"'Yung refund na ganun ina-apply din namin sa mga nagbayad through credit card kasi marami kaming customers na naka-auto charge," Meralco President and Chief Executive Officer Ray Espinosa told the Senate Committee on Energy.
(We are applying the same refund for those who paid their bills using credit cards because we have a lot of customers whose bills are auto-charged to their credit cards.)
The refund should be physically claimed in Meralco business centers, Espinosa said.
"'Yung refund ay puwede nilang agad agad na makuha. Pumunta sila sa kahit anong business office ng Meralco, ipakita ang proof of payment na nag-bayad na sila at bibigyan sila ng refund at sulat na sila ay magbabayad na on installment," he said.
(They can get their refund immediately. They can go to any of Meralco's business office, show proof of payment and then they will get a refund and a letter that says that they will be paying on an installment basis.)
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked why Meralco only gave the installment and refund announcement in July, when the public could have been notified as early as May or June.
"Baka puwede niyo po sabihan mga comms team niyo to do a better job... Para naman mapakinabangan talaga ng customers yang mga ganiyang good news," Hontiveros said.
(Perhaps you can tell your communications team to do a better job so that customers can benefit from good news like this.)
Espinosa apologized for the delayed announcement of the refund, citing the bill's "old system."
"'Yung bill po namin, napakahirap galawin kasi napakaluma na ng system," he said.
(Our bill is very hard to revise because we are using a very old system.)
"Sabi ko, gumawa na lang tayo ng separate na sulat para malaman nila anong installment plan ang nararapat sa kanila," he said.
(I told them that we should just create a separate notice about the installment plan that is fit for each household.)
Meralco will put up a special lane for refund claims to speed up the process, the electric distributor's chief said.
But Senate Committee on Energy chair Sherwin Gatchalian urged Meralco to find ways to deliver the refund electronically to avoid the possible exposure of consumers to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
"Get a lot of people who can answer questions online," Gatchalian told Meralco.
"Under the General Community Quarantine right now, we are trying to discourage the public from leaving their homes," he said.
"Baka para sa refund mahahawahan ka ng COVID. Baka ubos na yung pera mo from the refund dahil lang sa pagpapagamot," he said.
(People might get infected with COVID while their are claiming their refund. People might use up all the refund they get just to get treated.)
Meralco said it would train more call center and bills payment agents on how to explain bill-shock queries to consumers, including ways on how to avail of the refund.