• Distribution utilities warned vs overbilling

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    The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will hold accountable any power utility whose negligence results in clear disadvantage to customers.

    This was the warning issued on Tuesday by ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar to the country’s distribution utilities (DUs).

    Salazar called on DUs to “ensure that customers are fairly billed for electricity consumption based on accurate reading and computation of properly installed meters.”

    He cited the earlier decision of the ERC ordering distribution utility Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to refund the amount of about P1.8 million to its customer, William Chan, due to overbilling.

    “It is the right of every customer to have accurate meters that guarantee the correct registration of their electricity consumption,” Salazar said.

    In its decision, the ERC said the amount includes the refund, fines and interest charges.
    The ERC also slapped a P100,000 fine on Meralco for “negligence in the conduct of its business in distributing electricity” to Chan.

    The ERC found Meralco liable for “excessively billing the complainant” during several billing periods in 1998.

    Chan, who is in the tube ice business, had alleged that, on 16 November 1998, he discovered that one of the Meralco meters installed outside his plant was missing.

    Chan said the discovery was made when he noticed that his monthly energy consumption was consistently pegged at 165,240 kWh for three consecutive months despite the absence of a functional electric meter.

    He complained that Meralco had been billing him based solely on assumed readings.
    Chan said that the charges imposed upon him, which were based on mere estimated energy consumption, was unacceptable.

    The complaint was filed when Chan received a billing assessment amounting to P205,084.40 after Meralco had replaced the missing meter.

    He said he settled the amount “under protest” to avoid disconnection and interruption of his business.

    According to the ERC, an analysis of the power factor used has led to findings that Meralco had excessively billed Chan.

    “Based on the evidence presented, Mr. Chan was able to prove that Meralco billed him in excess of his electricity consumption for the disputed billing periods and that Meralco imposed threats of service disconnection,” the ERC said.

    The ERC also maintained that Chan must not be made to pay for electricity that was not actually consumed.

    It added that Meralco is expected to ensure during monthly readings that its meters are properly installed.

    It also pointed out that such meters must be shown to be operating under normal conditions considering that Meralco has the technical skills and expertise for their installation.

    It added that the actions of Meralco proved that it acted with “evident malice and bad faith” in its dealings with its customer.

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