House Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera said customers of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) may pursue claims for compensation arising from bill shock they experienced during the period of enhanced community quarantine.
“There is no doubt that the bill shock, which should have been prevented in the first place, caused added stress and anxiety to many Meralco customers who were already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic,” said Herrera.
“I feel very strongly that people who suffered such extreme inconveniences should be entitled to compensation,” she added.
Herrera made the statement after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) fined Meralco with P19-million, which she described as a “mere slap on the wrist” for the power utility giant. “Meralco is getting off the hook with a drop-in-the-bucket fine. And yet, Meralco said it would still appeal the ERC ruling that it is as if it has not done anything wrong.”
The party-list lawmaker noted that the penalty, as explained by the ERC, was only for Meralco’s failure to clearly indicate that the monthly bills of its customers were estimated, as well as its failure to comply with the directive to allow customers to pay in installments.
She also noted the ERC’s explanation that Meralco customers who complained of the bill shock will not benefit from the P19-million fine as it would go directly to government.
“If the inconvenienced customers think the penalty imposed on Meralco was too light and that they should be compensated, they have all the right to pursue claims for compensation,” Herrera pointed out.
Herrera, meanwhile, said she won’t be surprised if Meralco would enjoy excessive profits if complaints about high billings of its customers during the lockdown would go unresolved.
“As majority of businesses are taking a heavy beating, Meralco is emerging as one of the big winners from the coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “But unfortunately, this is at the expense of its numerous customers who felt they were overcharged for their power consumption during the lockdown and taken advantage by Meralco as they experience the worst public health crisis of this generation.”