As the general community quarantine (GCQ) has allowed for reopening of some businesses, Manila Electric Company (Meralco) said it will resume charging the P 47 convenience fee for online payments.
This after Meralco earlier committed to waive the fee and issue refunds to those who already paid online in an effort to help consumers amid the pandemic.
Consumer rights group Konsyumer said on Wednesday that it is thinking of “concrete steps” to hold Meralco accountable for the convenience fee, according to a Rappler report.
“Meralco is the true inconvenience and it never ceases to amaze us with what it can do to consumers. Either you lose hours in queues to pay your bill, or pay through the nose for ‘convenience,’ even though no other utility charges the same when you pay online,” said Primo Morillo, spokesperson of Konsyumer.
William Pamintuan, Meralco’s head of legal and corporate governance, meanwhile told lawmakers on Tuesday that they will no longer waive the fee since payment centers are now available for consumers.
When Meralco announced in late May its decision to waive and refund the convenience fee, the distribution utility also apologized after receiving flak on social media.
The Department of Energy (DOE) also ordered Meralco to explain the fee being charged as it was reportedly “a clear deviation to all the government efforts to bring down the cost of utilities” during the ECQ.
But Meralco insisted that regulators were aware of the fees collected and clarified that the fee does not go to Meralco, but to its partner company.
The Rappler report noted that the amount goes to a payment facility operated by PayMaya Philippines. Both Meralco and PayMaya Philippines are businesses of tycoon Manny Pangilinan.
“There is no reason to charge these fees except greed. And we call on the Energy Regulatory Commission to immediately put a stop to the levying of these fees and to refund those who have already paid,” said Morillo. ##