The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has ordered electricity distributors across the country to refund customers for overpayments they made for estimated billings during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) when meter reading could not be done.

The ERC also ordered the power utilities—both private distributors and cooperatives—to refund customers for payments collected when they allegedly “failed to implement” the installment scheme that was put in place for bills incurred during the ECQ.

Electricity consumers are allowed to settle unpaid bills in four to six monthly installments, depending on their monthly consumption.

The regulator also ordered utility companies to return to their customers the environmental charge and the feed-in tariff allowance or Fit-All, an incentive to entice companies to develop renewable energy facilities.

The environment charge and the Fit-All should not have been collected at all, the ERC instructed in its advisories issued in April and May.

The ERC said the amount of excess payments should be “accurately and clearly reflected on the billing statement,” to help in the implementation of the refund.

Refunds as credits

“For consumers who are entitled to refunds due to overpayments, they may, in lieu of cash refund, request the [utility] to apply the amount to be refunded as credits … for immediate future billings,” the ERC said.

To make the process easier for consumers, the ERC asked electricity distributors to “provide the necessary communication facility” where consumers can forward their requests for refund.

“Such requests shall be acknowledged by the [utility] within 48 hours upon receipt,” the ERC added.

Consumers who have already paid in full their monthly billings that fell due during the ECQ or modified ECQ and which are covered by the mandated installment scheme, may either seek a refund or avail of the installment option.

In areas still under ECQ in Cebu province, utilities were barred until September from issuing disconnection notices because of unpaid bills, the ERC said.

Too late

But the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) said its billing statements have been printed out before the ERC came out with its advisory against collection on April 15.

“[M]ost, if not all, statements reflected the collection of the Fit-All,” said Philreca, which groups 121 cooperatives under the supervision of the National Electrification Administration.

“Similarly, the advisory on universal charge-environmental charge suspension for May was released on May 22, which means that the May billing statement has been printed, released and distributed already,” the group said.

Philreca added that all its members were able to follow ERC directives regarding the universal charge starting with the June billing period.

“ERC should order the concerned agencies to refund the collected charges and make appropriate arrangements with the distribution utilities on how to refund the same to the consumers,” the group said.


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