Casiño urges House to probe hike in bill deposits

MAKABAYAN senatorial bet Teddy Casiño today called for a congressional inquiry into the “arbitrary and unilateral increase in their bill deposit fee,” saying it was not sanctioned by law and would have the effect of duping consumers of more than P20 billion worth of unpaid interest from their existing billing deposits.

“We want to ask the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) what the legal basis is for the increase. And why was there no public hearing on this matter?” said Casino.

“This is no different from the one month deposit on house rentals. But why is it that instead of a fixed rate, Meralco is increasing the deposit in midstream? Hindi pa ba sila kuntento sa kinikitang interes ng mga deposit na ito?” he asked.

The lawmaker added that the payment of annual interest earned from each consumer’s billing deposit was specified in a “Magna Carta for Electricity Consumers” promulgated by the ERC. Prior to the issuance of the said guideline, the interest on billing deposits was pegged at 6 percent then later increased to 10 percent. In 2010, however, Meralco made amendments to the Magna Carta and decreased the interest to a shocking 0.25 percent.

Casino said it was unclear if the annual interest earned from the billing deposits is being returned to the consumers. Based on the Magna Carta, consumers are entitled to a refund of the entire bill deposit if they managed to pay their electric bills religiously for a continuous period of three years.

Estimates made by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform Inc. NASECORE pegs the amount of P20 billion worth of unpaid interest from their existing billing deposits.

“Kailan ba nagrefund sa atin ang Meralco? Meron pa ngang dapat isoli dahil sa Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) overcharging,” he added.

“Meralco appears to have failed in complying with the charter and this should be scrutinized before allowing them to jack up deposit rates. Congress should look into this and the ERC had better intervene in the meanwhile to stop the practice,” said Casiño.

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