Meralco pays P19-M fine for ECQ “bill shocks”

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Meralco reported that it had already paid the ₱19 million fine imposed by the Energy Regulatory Commission for violating the government’s protocols during the Luzon lockdown, which led to thousands of customers complaining about “bill shock.”

According to Meralco, the amount has been settled a month after ERC announced the penalties. However, it appealed to the regulator to reconsider the second component of the fine.

“Meralco also filed a motion for partial reconsideration with respect to the directive to provide a retail rate discount to lifeline customers,” it told the Philippine Stock Exchange.

This refers to the ERC’s directive to set the charges to zero for a month for some 2 million “lifeline” or low-income customers who use less than 100 kilowatt hours of energy.

The ERC said Meralco failed to clearly inform consumers that their electricity bills were “estimated” during the enhanced community quarantine period, or when strict restrictions prevented Meralco representatives from reading meters in households. This then led to a sudden surge in customer bills.

Meralco also violated the installment payment scheme mandated by the ERC, the commission said, adding that the utility firm’s neglect “created chaos and confusion” among the public.

It took Meralco until July 9 to correct these mistakes, Devanadera said. ERC said Meralco committed a total of 190 days of violation of the rules set for March to July, which led to the value of the fine. The funds will form part of public funds, ERC chair Agnes Devanadera earlier said.

Other power distributors are also being probed by the ERC for bill collections during the lockdown period, Devanadera added.

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