Lawmaker: Meralco still owes consumers P1.5-B

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Monday, March 3, 2014


A PARTY-LIST lawmaker on Monday said the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) still owes its customers an estimated P 1.5-billion in refunds, more than a decade after the Supreme Court ordered the local power distributor to return previous overcharges.

Deputy Minority Leader Arnel Ty filed Resolution 88 urging the House committee on energy to inquire into Meralco's failure to fully comply with the November 15, 2003 Supreme Court ruling for the company to give back to its customers some P 30.2-billion in overcharges.

"The problem with Meralco is that while it has been quick to distribute profits to shareholders by way of hefty cash dividends, and swift to jack up rates to the detriment of customers, the company tends to dawdle when it comes to repaying consumers," the lawmaker said.

The Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers' Association (LPGMA) Representative noted that the overcharges stemmed from prior years' corporate income taxes and the cost of which was wrongfully passed on by Meralco to its 5.2 million customers.

"We were told that up to now, or more than 10 years later, Meralco has yet to refund at least P1.5 billion to approximately 260,000 customers," he said.

Ty filed the resolution shortly after Meralco came under more fire from consumer groups, this time, for including the P4.15 per-kilowatt-hour rate hike in the February billing statements sent to customers.

Both the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) have already ordered Meralco to explain why the December rate increase, which has since been temporarily restrained by the Supreme Court for 120 days, was still factored into the billing statement and the total amount due.

"We've examined Meralco's February billing statement, and it definitely appears confusing and deceptive," Ty said.

The DTI recently urged Meralco customers "to pay only the current amount due for February and to disregard the total amount due" that are inclusive of the P4.15 per-kilowatt-hour upward rate adjustment. (Sunnex)

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