Republic of the Philippines


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ERC favors customer In Overbilling case versus MERALCO

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar recently called on the country’s distribution utilities to “ensure that customers are fairly billed for electricity consumption based on accurate reading and computation of properly installed meters”.

Salazar issued the call after the ERC ordered distribution utility Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to pay some P1.8 million in refund to the latter’s customer, William Chan, following what the regulatory body said was a case of overbilling.

Salazar warned that “the ERC will hold accountable any power utility whose negligence results in clear disadvantage to customers”.

Salazar pointed out that “it is the right of every customer to have accurate meters that guarantee the correct registration of their electricity consumption”.

In its decision, the ERC said the amount includes the refunds, fines and interest. The ERC also slapped a P100 thousand fine on Meralco for “negligence in the conduct of its business in distributing electricity” to Chan.

The ERC found MERALCO liable for “excessively billing the complainant” during several billing periods in 1998.

Chan, who is in the tube ice business, had alleged that, 0n 16 November 1998, he discovered that one of the MERALCO meters installed outside his plant was missing.

Chan said the discovery was made when he noticed that his monthly energy consumption was consistently pegged at 165,240 kWh for three (3) consecutive months despite absence of a functional electric meter.  

Chan complained that MERALCO  had been billing him based solely on assumed reading. He said that the charges imposed upon him,  which were based on mere estimated energy consumption,  was unacceptable.  

The complaint was filed when Mr. Chan received the billing assessments amounting to PhP 205,084.40 after MERALCO had replaced the missing meter. He said he settled the amount “under protest” to avoid disconnection and interruption of his business.

According to the ERC, an analysis of the power factor used has led to findings that MERALCO had excessively billed Chan.

The ERC also maintained that Chan must not be made to pay for electricity which was not actually consumed. It added that MERALCO is expected to ensure during monthly readings that its meters are properly installed.

It also pointed out that such meters must be shown to be operating under normal conditions considering that Meralco has the technical skills and expertise for their installation.

“Based on the evidence presented, Mr. Chan was able to prove that MERALCO billed him in excess of his electricity consumption for the disputed billing periods and that MERALCO imposed threats of service disconnection,” the ERC said.  

It added that the actions of MERALCO proved that it acted with “evident malice and bad faith” in its dealings with its customer.  


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