Senator Grace Poe on Monday appealed to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to reconsider Resolution 12 series of 2016 and urge distribution utilities (DUs) to exert more effort in finding customers who have yet to receive the meter deposit refund instead of forfeiting such in favor of the government.
In Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)’s case, the unclaimed meter deposits amount to P314 million as of September 30, 2020.
“We need to be sensitive to the needs of the people. Mataas na nga ang presyo ng mga bilihin at nagmamahal pa ang presyo ng pagkain,” said the chair of the Senate public services committee.
“We must find ways to put money back in people’s pockets, especially money that rightfully belongs to them,” Poe said.
The Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumer that became effective in 2004 exempted residential customers from the payment of meter deposits. Nonresidential customers were eventually exempted from the payment of the meter deposits in 2006.
The ERC released the rules governing the refund of meter deposits in 2008 that allowed customers to receive the refund in cash, check, or as a credit to their future billings, or to offset the other charges of the distribution utility.
Meralco submitted an accounting of the total meter deposit principal and interest in August 2008. While the refund of the meter deposits started in 2008, Meralco still holds P314 million of the total meter deposits that represent deposits of those who have terminated its services.
In 2016, the ERC amended the rules governing the refund of meter deposits, asking distribution utilities to deposit them in a single savings account under their (DUs’) names but strictly intended for claimants of meter deposits.
The ERC also gave customers until December 2017 to claim their meter deposit refunds. Customers’ failure to do so means the money will be subjected to an escheat proceeding in favor of the government.
Meralco has submitted to the ERC the total amount of unclaimed meter deposit refund in April 2018 and is waiting for the ERC’s directive.
“There’s an upside in the delays in the ERC action. The money would have just been forfeited in favor of government,” Poe said.
“That it hasn’t acted on it gives us time to exert more effort in returning it to those who actually paid those deposits. People need money right now. Somehow, it is not fair for government to just take it for itself,” she said.
Poe said Meralco can also help find those customers by providing a mechanism on its website for people to check if they are among those entitled to the refund or publishing the names of the people entitled to the refund.
“2008 pa yung mga refund na ito. Marahil, may pumanaw na sa kanila. Pero kung buhay pa sila, hindi naman tama na ipagkait sa kanila ang kanilang pera. Mahirap ang buhay ngayon,” she added.