Saturday, August 8, 2020

Sen. Gatchalian Urges DUs To Expedite Digitalization To Protect Consumer Welfare

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Senator Win Gatchalian has prodded distribution utilities to fast-track their digital transformation to deliver enhanced customer experience, particularly in payment systems.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, made the statement as he highlighted during the Energy and Sustainable Development Webinar, organized by the Ateneo School of Government, the importance of digitalization in relation to the safety and welfare of consumers especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.

To illustrate his point, the lawmaker pointed out that the current bill shock that many households have experienced may have been avoided if only distribution utilities, such as Meralco, quickly adopted newer technologies, such as smart meters, in determining the correct reading of consumed electricity.

The absence of smart meters has caused Meralco to resort to “estimated bills” because the utility company was unable to conduct meter readings during the duration of the enhanced community quarantine, according to Gatchalian.

“If you live in the Philippines, you have probably encountered a bill shock, because during March, April, and May, Meralco has only estimated our bills and reconciled everything in June,” Gatchalian said.

“Ang naging problema nuong kasagsagan ng ECQ ay hindi makapunta sa mga bahay bahay ang mga meter reader. Pero kung mayroon sanang smart meter, hindi na aabot pa sa gabundok na halaga ang bill sa kuryente. If we have smart meters installed all over the country, meters can be read even remotely and we can compute by month,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Energy is set to hold an inquiry on Monday to get to the bottom of numerous complaints over high electricity rates amid the government-imposed community quarantine.

Gatchalian earlier said that the committee has received over 200 complaints on the bill shock, prompting him to immediately send a letter to Meralco imploring the public utility to provide a status report on its compliance with its commitment to the Joint Congressional Energy Commission (JCEC), as well as an explanation and action plan to address the bill shock.

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