Ilonggos overbilled, demand refund

August 24, 2020

ILOGGO power consumers are demanding a refund from More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE) charging they are overbilled because of system losses that MORE charges which are almost double the allowed cap mandated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

In Saturday’s virtual press conference, Koalisyon Bantay Kuryente (KBK), a consumer rights advocate group in Iloilo City, said MORE Power is in defiance of the 2017 ERC-mandated cap on systems loss as the newbie power distribution firm charges almost double the rate at 12%.  The 6.25% cap was mandated by the ERC and all private distribution utilities must comply with it.

According to KBK Chairman Ruperto Supena, a review of More’s recent consumer bills shows they lack basis, especially given the coronavirus quarantine scenario. He said, “The consumers are understandably angry. Their power bills are often double than the usual amount they get every month. That is hard to explain given the 13-hour brownouts that the city is experiencing. Some businesses have received higher charges—even though they have remained closed since March when the quarantines started.”

Supena emphasized, “That is why thousands of Ilonggo power consumers are demanding a refund. The ERC must investigate this immediately”

He also voiced his concern that Ilonggo consumers are asking where their payments, amounting to millions of pesos, could have gone. “We are seeing a failure in the delivery of services,” he said. “Not surprisingly, people are asking, ‘What have we been paying for?”” 

Meanwhile, KBK Coordinator Allen Aquino also expressed his concern for MORE’s increase in system loss, which refers to the amount of electricity lost in the power system, often due to inefficiency or poorly performing equipment. The 6.5 percent cap represents the maximum system loss costs that distributors are legally allowed to pass on to consumers.  He added that the increase in system loss charges goes against MORE’s promised anti-pilferage operations, which the company claims would reduce system loss.

Aquino also pointed out that if the overbillings remain unresolved, “MORE can pass down these absurd charges to the consumer. But we as a consumer company cannot let that happen and, according to the law, we can hold them accountable to the ERC. If MORE continues to fail to deliver, we will call for the government to step in and remove them.”

Panay Electric Company (PECO) legal counsel Atty. Estrella Elamparo deplored MORE’s on tactics to keep their business afloat. To recall, MORE had aggressively taken over PECO’s facilities back in February despite a court order from the Iloilo RTC to maintain PECO’s control over the distribution utility’s operations.

Additionally, MORE’s submitted documentation to the ERC and the Supreme Court has often lacked a full description of the power situation in Iloilo.

“Who is holding MORE accountable? The people of Iloilo are going to continue to suffer if the ERC and the Supreme Court do not speedily resolve this issue,” stressed Elamparo.

The constitutionality (or lack of it) of MORE’s takeover of PECO’s facilities will be deliberated on in the Supreme Court next week. In the meantime, expect a rise of outraged complaints over Iloilo’s continuous brownouts and overbillings, while questions remain as to  how the people’s bill payments are being used.