Consumer rights group probes power hikes, interruptions

Meralco says electricity rates lower this month

Clean energy and consumer rights group Power for People Coalition (P4P) has been seeking the Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) explanation over the sudden increase in consumption as reported by some consumers in their electric bills despite power interruptions occuring during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Since May 6, Meralco has experienced 52 tripping events. Consumers discovered that the recorded increased consumption was three times during the ECQ as tabulated in their bills.

“We cannot help but feel that Meralco is using the ECQ as a convenient scapegoat to cover up their shortcomings. While it is understandable that people at home will consume more electricity, it is incredible that consumption would increase three or four more times in just a month. And it is unbelievable that when malls, factories, offices, and other large electrical consumers are closed, Meralco’s grid is suddenly incapable of coping with the demand,” P4P Convenor Gerry Arances was quoted in a report.

P4P called on the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB) to investigate the matter.

“People are already very stressed due to the ECQ. They are worried about their jobs, feeding their families, paying the rent, and paying for utilities. The least Meralco can do is deliver the service consumers overpaid for,” said Arances.

Payment for utilities as well as rent for residential units are suspended while the quarantine is enforced, under the Republic Act No. 11469.

“Even if these payments are suspended, people still have to make good of them after the quarantine. The problem is, not everyone will have a job after ECQ or be eligible for government assistance,” said Arances.

P4P also reminded Meralco the refunds that have not been paid back to consumers.

“I would also like to remind Meralco of the refunds that it still owes consumers. Now is the opportune time, after correcting the bills, to waive the bills towards the satisfaction of their debt to the people they overcharged for decades,” said Arances.