Order Meralco to explain 'misleading' billing, SC asked
MANILA, Philippines – Leftist lawmakers on Monday, March 17, asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the Manila Electric Co (Meralco) to explain why the distribution firm should not be cited for contempt given its "misleading" billing format.
Petitioners Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, both Bayan Muna Party-list representatives in Congress, said Meralco should also be required to submit a compliance report on its implementation of the SC-issued temporary restraining order (TRO) on Meralco's unprecedented rate hake.
The TRO was issued by the SC on December 23 and was later on extended, despite Meralco arguing before the High Court that the continued halt of the rate hike can cause rotational blackouts. (READ: Meralco asks SC to lift TRO on rate hike)
Meralco was set to implement in December a rate increase of P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate, the highest in history. This was after the simultaneous shutdown of its suppliers forced it to purchase more power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) at high prices.
In their 11-page omnibus motion, Colmenares and Zarate argued that "Meralco’s billing format subverted the TRO imposed by this Honorable Court."
It cited former Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño's Meralco bill dated Feb 13, 2014 which included in its “total amount due” the P4.15 rate hike restrained by the High Court.
Meralco, said the petitioners, should explain why it should not be charged with lying under oath when its billing format can potentially mislead Meralco subscribers "because of the reasonable tendency of the consumers to pay the TOTAL AMOUNT DUE written in BOLD as they have usually done previously."
"Even if the consumer noticed the ‘current amount due’ portion, the consumer may still pay the larger amount in the TOTAL AMOUNT DUE, for fear that, should they pay less than that, Meralco could disconnect their electricity service," the petitioners added.
Casiño said Meralco’s action caused injury to consumers who were deceived into paying more than what we should have.
The petitioners also asked the High Court to immediately submit a compliance report showing details such as: the number of consumers who paid before the TRO was issued and the number of consumers who paid as a result of the "confusing billing format."
These, they said, are "vital information" which "the public have no knowledge of."
“We want the SC to hold Meralco accountable for misleading and violating the rights of its consumers. The Court should send a clear message to other public utility companies that they should not trifle with the orders of the Court or with the rights of their customers,” added Casiño in a statement. – Rappler.com