High court seeks Meralco, ERC comment on bill deposits case

By Vann Marlo M. Villegas – August 6, 2019 | 10:04 pm
from Business World

electric meters linemen technician

 

THE Supreme Court (SC) has asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to comment on the petition filed by the Makabayan bloc last April questioning the bill deposits collected by Meralco from its consumers.

In a notice released to media on Tuesday, the SC gave ERC, Meralco and the Commission on Audit to file comment within 10 days upon receipt of the resolution.

The Makabayan bloc in April asked the High Court to stop Meralco from collecting bill deposits from its customers as it was not allowed under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the franchise of Meralco.

The legislators noted that under EPIRA, distribution utilities are only allowed to impose distribution wheeling charges and connection fees as approved by the ERC.

Distribution utilities are also required to supply power in the “least cost manner,” they said.

Meralco has collected P29-billion worth of bill deposits based on its 2018 audited financial statements.

The Makabayan bloc claims that ERC’s authorization of bill deposit only promotes the interests of distribution utilities and “ensures their profit, to the prejudice of customers.”

The group also asked the court to order ERC to order a refund of bill deposits and the Commission on Audit to verify all bill deposits collected.

The Makabayan bloc also said the imposition of bill deposit is inconsistent with the promotion of consumer interests in the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers promulgated by the ERC in 2004.

Under the Magna Carta, consumers are required to pay bill deposits equivalent to the estimated billing for one month when applying for connection. It should be refunded within a month after termination of service as long as all bills have been paid while customers who have paid bills on time for three years can apply for a refund.

They also cited the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman that the bill deposit of Meralco has been “commingled” and used to finance capital and operation costs, thereby endangering consumers’ right to a refund.