MANILA, Philippines – Manila Electric Company (Meralco) president Ray Espinosa apologized for the P47 convenience fee the company charged to customers opting to pay bills online and assured consumers that they would get a refund.
“I sincerely apologize for this lapse. Meralco will shoulder the convenience fee charged during the aforesaid ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) period and refund to the customers the fees they paid during the period,” Espinosa said in a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) dated Wednesday, May 20.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier said Meralco’s collection was “a clear deviation to all the government efforts to bring down the cost of utilities, especially during these difficult times.”
Meralco was charging the convenience fee long before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Perhaps what Meralco should have done during the ECQ period – March 16 to May 15 – was to shoulder the convenience fee charged by the payment gateway provider considering that the Meralco Business Offices and Bayad Center branches and partner outlets were closed during that time,” Espinosa said.
He added that Meralco would be “more sensitive in the future and shall be ever mindful of the best interest and well-being” of customers.
During the lockdown period, online transactions jumped to around 300,000, according to Meralco.
The power distributor earlier explained that the convenience fee goes to partner companies and not to them.
However, critics pointed out that the payment facility is operated by PayMaya Philippines, another company under Manny Pangilinan, chairman of Meralco.
PayMaya Philippines is a subsidiary of Voyager Innovations, a company under Pangilinan-led PLDT and Smart. – Rappler.com