Meralco explains high electricity bills for May

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) — The Manila Electric Company on Friday addressed the "bill shock" experienced by its customers following online complaints from residents over the high electricity bill they received this month.

Meralco said electricity bills sent to consumers were fairly calculated, with meter reading activities remaining accurate and transparent.

It said the electricity bill received in May may be significantly steeper compared to those from the past months. The electric service provider said the March and April bills were estimated based on the average daily consumption from December 2019, January 2020, and February 2020 — when customers typically consumed less electricity as the weather was significantly cooler.

Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga pointed out that the fact that everyone is home due to the enhanced community quarantine enforced in parts of the country may have led to increased consumption. He added that the scorching heat has also led to higher use of cooling devices, such as fans and airconditioners.

He said the bill received in May is based on the result of the actual kilowatt per hour consumption’ from the current meter reading, with adjustments already reflected, coming from the estimated consumption done during the enhanced community quarantine period.

"The May bill is a result of the actual kWh Consumption from the current meter reading, with adjustments already reflected from the previous estimated consumption. This total, which is already based on the true and actual readings, is what customers actually see in the May bill. That is why you may notice a rise in the total amount due," he said in a press release.

Meralco reiterated that it allows its customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis to settle bills via four monthly payments.

"Hindi naman kami walang puso na we will disconnect at a time na alam naman natin na kailangan ng customers namin ang service ng kuryente," Zaldarriaga told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon.

[Translation: We are not heartless that we would disconnect at a time when we know our customers need electricity.]

He also asked for patience from the public as they face issues with online payment services due to some "constraints," with enhanced community quarantine still in place.

Energy consumer group Power for People Coalition has called for a probe on Meralco's billing practice during the ECQ.

As more complaints continue to crop up online, Meralco is set to file charges against a netizen who claimed a friend received an electricity bill amounting to ₱1.773 million for a single household. The post on social media of a certain Joven Salarda racked up almost 20,000 shares before it was taken down.

Meralco said, upon investigation, the bill posted online was for an account owned by SM Development Corporation — a corporate account that has 1,364 services assigned to it.

The company said it will file parallel complaints with NBI’s Cybercrime Division and PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Unit for violation of the cybercrime law.

Zaldarriaga added that Meralco will also track down other perpetrators of fake news that target the company.

"I guess it's about time that Meralco really exerts its legal right to go after these people who propagate malicious insinuations against Meralco," said the spokesperson.