Press Release
July 6, 2020

Hontiveros urges gov't: Study filing raps vs. Meralco for 'anti-consumer' billing practices

"Ngayong panahon ng pandemya, huwag naman sana dumagdag pa ang overpriced at hindi malinaw na singil sa kuryente sa problema ng taumbayan. Government should use the full force of the law to put an end to abusive or questionable practices by power firms and other public utilities."

Senator Risa Hontiveros made the statement as she urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and other other relevant agencies to investigate and study the filing of charges against the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) for its 'anti-consumer' billing practices in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Senate Committee on Energy hearing on the power industry's issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hontiveros said that ERC should thoroughly investigate Meralco's controversially high electricity bills charged to consumers, among other actions, for possible violations of government regulations in the past few months.

"Kung may nalabag silang ERC order, Meralco should be immediately charged and penalized for its anti-consumer practices. Consumers deserve justice for being made to pay exorbitant power charges at a time when so many have lost their jobs and livelihood," she said.

The ERC has earlier stated that they are looking into allegations by consumers of "illogically high" electric bills charged by Meralco during the lockdown, and confirmed that the Meralco firm may have violated ERCs' prior guidelines to power firms as stated in its advisories in March, April and May.

Consumers groups have also stated that Meralco's billing practices may have violated the Department of Energy's advisory last April 25, 2020, since Meralco's bills reportedly failed to inform consumers about the 4-month amortization option which allows people to pay their cumulative power fees in 4 equal monthly installments after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.

"Base sa mga complaints na nareceive ng aming opisina, nakalagay sa June bill ng Meralco na hindi na ito kasama sa installment plan na pinapayagan ng pamahalaan, kaya dapat daw fully paid na by June 30. Hindi rin malinaw kung estimate amount lang yung chinarge nila from February to April, or actual meter reading na siya," Hontiveros noted. "Sadya bang ginawa ito ng MERALCO para malito ang mga tao at mag-bayad sila ng buo at walang installment, labag sa utos ng ERC?" she added.

"To add insult to injury, consumers looking to complain or inquire about their bills are met with un-reachable hotlines and long, crowded lines at Meralco offices which expose so many people to great health risks, Altogether, Meralco's practices seem deliberate and in bad faith," she said.

"Sa gitna ng madilim na yugto ng bansa, imbis na maging liwanag ang Meralco ay lalo pang ikinulong sa dilim ang mga Pilipino. Meralco, instead of standing with us, has decided to put profitability and its corporate interests first," she concluded.

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