Consumer Group Criticizes PSALM for Lack of Transparency and Disclosure on Universal Charges
(The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2019, March 15, 2019, is “Trusted Smart Products”)
In a policy statement recently, Laban Konsyumer Inc. and its President Atty. Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba said that it is best for the consumers that the national government absorbs all the universal charges being collected by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporatiion ( PSALM ) , including all pending petitions and future petitions in the Energy Regulatory Commisssion ( ERC ) amounting to Php 0.8600 per kwh. Dimagiba also said that tax exempt employees and minimum wage earners shall enjoy the benefit of this proposed policy.
The proposed policy was made in the midst of the consumer group criticism on the absolute lack of disclosure and transparency on the part of PSALM on the matter of collection of the universal charges consisting of the National Power Corporation ( NPC ) stranded contract costs and stranded contract debts. The consumer group calls on the ERC to direct PSALM to disclose their liabilities and collections and inform the consumers ahead of time. There should be nothing hidden from the consumers. The disclosure of information by PSALM should include the assets of NPC that are under the management of PSALM , NPC assets that were sold and the accounting of the proceeds of all the sales.
Dimagiba earlier disclosed that the amount of Php 0.3876 under universal charges were reversed in his February 2019 Meralco bill to offset what were billed and paid for in the December 2018 and January 2019 Meralco bills. In his Batalec bill ( Batangas ) , the amount of Php 0. 1938 was billed and paid in December 2018 , but were not offset or reversed in the January and February 2019 ( issued on March 3, 2019 ) bills .
Dimagiba added, “what about the consumers outside the Meralco franchise area, as in my case as a Batalec customer in Batangas? Were there appropriate reversals or offsetting of stranded contract costs as well?
LKI also hinted that there may be a new stranded contract costs to be colllected by PSALM in the sum of Php 0.1938 /kwh based on an ERC approval of July 6, 2017. This information was shared by PSALM in their materials during the hearing in the Senate of the Murang Kuryente Bill . “ If they are going to insert more costs, additional burden for consumers, they should disclose them now and very early, ahead of time for consumers information, added Dimagiba.
Dimagiba was alarmed when he learned that “PSALM informed the distribution utility that they have to cease collecting UC-Stranded Contract Cost (UC-SCC) in January 2019 since they already completed in full the P8.5 billion UC-SCC cost upon receiving Meralco’s November 2018 customer collections.”
The group noted the news that said “However, PSALM only informed the distributors last January 14 and was therefore too late to stop collection of the December 2018 and January 2019 UC-SCC billing. The result was a reversal the two-months’ worth of P0.1938 UC-SCC for February.”
Dimagiba concluded by saying “And because of PSALM’s lack of transparency and disclosure, there was a slight delay in customer billing for February. And still consumers were not informed about PSALM and their stranded costs. We deserve to know about these updates, as these affect consumers and our welfare.”
Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) is a nonprofit and non-stock registered entity with the Securities and Exchange Commission. LKI is a consumer advocacy group in the Philippines that promotes consumer education and protection against deceptive, unfair and unconscionable business practices. The LKI focuses on education, prices and supply of basic and prime commodities, standards and qualities among other areas of consumer protection.
LKI is a member of Consumers International, a membership organization for consumer groups around the world. Consumer International is composed of over 200 member organizations in more than 100 countries to empower and champion the rights of consumers everywhere. The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2019, March 15, 2019, is “Trusted Smart Products”.
LKI acts as Chairman of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) of the Philippines.
Laban Konsyumer Inc. has a pending application for recognition as a national consumer organization in the Department of Trade and Industry.