MANILA – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday urged Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), as well as other electric distribution companies, to immediately explain clearly in “simple terms” how it computed its billings during the enhanced community quarantine period amid growing concerns regarding the sudden spike in electricity bills during the three-month period.
During a Senate hearing, Go noted that the number of consumers who are complaining about their high electricity bills from March to May continues to grow despite efforts from Meralco to inform the public why their electricity bills were reflected that way when no actual meter reading was done.
He pointed out that part of the problem is that in the series of explanations it issued, Meralco cited formulas that ordinary citizens find hard to understand and accept.
“Nananawagan po ako sa Meralco, at sa iba pang electric companies, na ipaliwanag pa ng mas maayos, kaysa naman po napakahabang eksplanasyon na hindi naman po maintindihan, ibigay ang kumpletong impormasyon upang maintindihan ng mga tao (I call on Meralco and other electric companies to explain more simply, instead of a long explanation that cannot be understood, and give detailed information so that people will be able to understand),” Go said.
“Para sa akin, sana ay mas igihan pa ninyo ang pagbibigay ng impormasyon na mas maiintindihan ng mga consumers. Dagdagan pa natin ang pagsisikap at nang mapaintindi sa ating mga kababayan ang nangyaring bill shock na ito. (For me, you must improve the way you give information in a way that is better understood by your consumers). Your consumers deserve nothing less than this,” he said.
Go urged Meralco and other electric distribution companies to “go over and above what is necessary” to relieve the panic and anxiety of the Filipino consumers during these trying times.
Emphasizing that the ordinary Filipino citizen is at the heart of the businesses of power distribution utilities, he said consumer complaints should be addressed, and corrective measures have to be implemented without delay by these companies.
“Huwag ninyong hayaan na tumagal ang issue (Don’t let the issue persist) without providing each and every consumer a clear explanation. And if you find that corrections have to be made, nakikiusap po ako (I implore you), do it immediately, and without the delay,” Go said.
“Maraming Pilipino ang naghihirap ngayon dahil sa Covid-19 outbreak sa bansa. Maraming nawalan ng trabaho, maraming nagsarang negosyo at maraming nagkakasakit. Sana naman ay huwag nating dagdagan pa ang kanilang pag-aalala at sakit sa ulo dahil hindi klaro ang mga patakaran ninyo ukol sa mga bayarin (Many Filipinos are suffering because of the coronavirus disease outbreak in the country. Many lost their jobs, many businesses closed and many got sick. Do not add to their anxieties and headaches your unclear billing policies),” he added.
In response, Meralco apologized for the continuing inconvenience to its customers brought about by their concerns and issues regarding billing matters.
Meralco president and CEO Ray Espinosa said the company is doubling its efforts to address the issue and is currently hiring and deploying more personnel to respond to complaints from social media channels, among others.
He also vowed that the company will immediately issue a “clarificatory letter” to all its consumers to explain exactly the amounts being demanded from them. The company would send the letters within 30 days.
Go then asked Meralco about the process for consumers who wished to refund the amount they have already paid and avail of the instalment plan.
Espinosa said consumers only needed to go to any Meralco business office to immediately get a refund, show their proof of payment for the months that they have already paid, and they would be sent notices that they will pay on an instalment scheme.
“Magkakaron po tayo ng special lane para po dun sa refund para hindi sila maantala ng mga nagbabayad at doon sa mga nagpupunta sa offices natin na humihingi ng paliwanag para dun sa kanilang mga bill (We will have a special lane for the refund so that they will not be delayed by those who are paying their bills or those who wanted their bills explained to them),” he said (PNA)