Letter to the Editor (06/07/21)

June 2, 2021

Dear Mr. Gamboa,

We hope that everything is well with you today.

We read your column (https://www.bworldonline.com/vax-populi/) about the high billing concern of Ms. Aurora Pijuan last year.  Allow us to relay what transpired at that time.

It was in March 2020 when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was declared that also covered the areas served by Meralco.  For safety and to avoid further spread of the virus, meter reading activities were halted because of the community lockdown.  This resulted to the bill estimations that was based on the past 3 months’ average daily consumption following the Distribution Services and Open Access Rules (DSOAR) issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

In the case of Ms. Pijuan, her scheduled meter reading date is every 7th day of the month.  Since the community quarantine started on March 15, 2020, we were still able to read her meter on March 7.  Hence, the March bill was based on the actual meter reading and was read prior to the declaration of ECQ. This was not the same for her April 2020 bill.  With the lockdown at that time, the bill estimation was applied to her April 2020 bill and was computed using the average of January, February and March 2020.

The period from January to March was relatively cooler. Since the basis was the average of the cooler months, this yielded an estimated electricity consumption that may have not matched Ms. Pijuan’s actual usage for her billing period of March 7 to April 7.  Had there been an actual meter reading, it would have been immediately reflected.  However, due to the lockdown in April, this was not possible at that time.

We resumed our meter reading activities on May 6, following safety protocols for the meter readers to perform their duties.  With this, we were able to read the meter of Ms. Pijuan on May 7, as well as the other customers in the area.

With the actual meter reading on May 7, this was deducted from the last actual meter reading on March 7.  The difference is the actual electricity consumption of Ms.Pijuan for the 2 months.  From this, the estimated consumption in April was deducted from the total May kWh consumption, resulting to the May 2020 bill rendered that is Ms. Pijuan’s cause of concern. 

It was on May 25, 2020, when we received the concern of Ms. Pijuan.  We dispatched our crew on June 1, 2020 to check the meter reading.  As the meter registration progresses, the reading obtained on June 1 validated the May 7 meter reading.  With this validation, it can be concluded that the April bill was under-estimated, and the unregistered electricity consumption was carried to the May bill.

Electricity consumption is derived from the present meter reading less the previous meter reading.  It is a straightforward approach done monthly.  The same is true for the succeeding and continuous meter readings of Ms. Pijuan’s electric meter.  From this process, the electricity bills are rendered.

The electric meter being the tool used to register electricity consumption, we offered to have the meter tested in her presence or even accompanied with a trusted representative, to validate the accuracy of the meter.  However, the past 2 attempts to have the meter tested did not push through as Ms. Pijuan declined, stating that the meter has no defect.  She mentioned that the meter was registering correctly but on the other hand, pointed out that her electric consumption should not be that high in May.

With this statement, we presented a comparison of the 2020 and 2019 April and May bills.  The sum of the 2 months’ consumption compared year on year, showed that the trend of her electricity consumption is approximately the same.  This comparative analysis is to show that it is possible for Ms. Pijuan to reach the electricity consumption and bill in question.  It was the under-estimation of the kWh consumption rendered for the April bill that was carried over to the May bill when an actual meter reading was taken.    

The electric meter being the fundamental instrument by which we derive the kWh consumption and for the bill to be computed, we would like to show in good faith and transparency the accuracy of the meter by conducting a meter test.  We have also reached out several times to explain and have paid attention to Ms. Pijuan’s concern.

At present, this case is being reviewed by the ERC and will await the due process to take its course.  We will respect the outcome and decision of ERC for this case.

Thank you very much for hearing our side on this.

Margarita B. David.
Head, Home and Microbiz – Central Business Area