Bill deposit is consumers’ obligation – Meralco
The bill deposit charge of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is an obligation of consumers as mandated under the rules, as the proceeds of which goes not just to the power firm but also to other electricity cooperatives and distribution utilities.
This was the explanation of Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga on Friday amid complaints of some customers about their increased monthly bill because of the bill deposit.
Among them was Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), who was surprised to find out about the bill deposit charge, amounting to P2,472.83, in his latest Meralco bill.
“‘Yung bill deposit po kasi binabayaran po ng customer hindi lang sa Meralco po kung hindi sa buong Pilipinas pati ‘yung lahat ng electric cooperatives at distribution utilities pag nag-apply ng service ang consumer,” Zaldarriaga explained in an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
“Tapos meron din pong tinatawag na annual update depende sa average bill mo for a year,” he added.
The Meralco official clarified that the bill deposit, which is equivalent to the estimated billing for one month and serving as a security for unpaid bills, could either increase or be refunded, depending on the customer’s average monthly consumption.
“Meron itong range kung kailan pwedeng magbago either mag-tap up ka or magdagdag ka sa deposit mo, or isosoli sa’yo kapag ‘yun namang iyong average bill ay mas mababa sa bill deposit mo,” he said.
He said the collection would only increase if the customer consumed electricity that is higher than 10 percent of his average consumption.
Zaldarriaga said this collection arrangement is provided for under the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers.
“Nasa Chapter 3 article 28 consumer obligations nakapaloob doon yung obligation to pay bill deposit,” he noted.
“Hindi po namin patakaran ito, pinapatupad lang kung ano yung nasa batas,” he added.
He also said consumers would get a refund if they pay bills religiously for three consecutive years.
“Nagze-zero ang bill dahil sa inyong deposit bill refund kapag good credit rating ibig sabihin on or before due date you settle your payment for three consecutive years, entitled ka sa full refund ng deposit,” he said.
But according to Reyes, who filed a complaint against the fee at the Meralco Kamuning branch, the bill deposit is “unjust and anti-consumer.”
“Even customers who previously refunded their bill deposits are now being made to pay the equivalent of 1 month’s bill, as a NEW deposit. Even if customers religiously pay their monthly bills on time, they are in danger of being charged NEW bill deposits. In a time of record inflation, the additional bill deposit is unjust and anti-consumer,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Meralco will not suffer or lose money if it fails to collect the bill deposit. Meanwhile, poor consumers are already having a problem making ends meet to pay their monthly bills. The additional charge is thus grossly insensitive to the situation of consumers today,” he added.
The militant leader has also urged Congress to look into the practice of increasing bill deposits as well as Merlaco’s basis for charging it to consumers, asserting that the bill deposit fee “lacks transparency and does not provide due process whereby consumers can either challenge or question the increase.” /kga
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