So the June Meralco bills (PSE: MER) have started to come in and not a few friends and condo neighbors were shocked about the huge long bar graph representing their actual electricity usage for May to June. I saw a former teacher of mine ranting on Facebook as their bill reached P20K. Whew. Let’s take a breather, and take a closer look. The increase in Meralco bill is to be expected, hopefully within reasonable range. And the bill can be paid in installments.
Luckily for us, the amount due in our Meralco bill is reasonable enough, within expectations. Our average monthly bill prior to ECQ is at P1,700 per month. For the March to May billing (where Meralco did not do a meter reading, instead they used previous months’ average usage), our bill was only P2,000. Note, this is two months’ worth of electricity, it was like paying P1,000 per month. Way below our average. So back then we knew we had to be ready once the actual reading is done and once the actual real bill comes in. So we set aside the excess money from our usual budget for Meralco bills, to prepare for the bill surge in June.
Voila, June billing comes in (note bill period in our bill is Mar2020 to Jun2020), and the amount is P5,500. Whew. Sigh of relief.
Increased Usage Expected
For context, prior to the ECQ, me and the missus are out the whole day for our days jobs, working in the business districts. We leave at 7:30am, get home by 8pm. So we don’t use much electricity for most part of week days. Only at night time. Sometimes, we even go to our provinces or do staycations and stay there for the weekend. We have basic appliances: TV (not smart), lights, electric fan, WiFi, induction cooker, water heater, refrigerator (non-inverter), a 1.0 HP inverter aircon which we only use late at night prior to sleeping, and a washing machine which we only use once a week.
During ECQ however, and for the next 75 days (which felt like years!), me and the missus were working from home full time, and we’re not able to go out during weekends (except for groceries) so our electricity usage naturally and expectedly increased. Netflix and TV almost the whole day and night, 2 to 3 laptops plugged in, charging our mobile phones at home (and not at office, oops!), more frequent refrigerator and lights openings, and we switch on the aircon much earlier in the day (usually lunch time onwards, ang init eh!) and switch if off much later in the morning (since we wake up later than usual since we’re working from home. God I miss those 7:30am or later waking hours!) Plus, the ECQ / MECQ also coincided with summer so the weather is hotter (and cooling appliances tend to work harder).
Check Your Electric Meter
Hold your horses. I’m not saying no one should complain.
If you think your Meralco bill is outrageously and unreasonably high, I suggest you check your electric meter.
Definitely it will not show the actual reading indicated in the billing, it should have moved most likely due to additional electricity consumption, but it should not be far off. Reading date in our bill is June 8 (so around 12 days ago). The number you are looking for is in page 2 of your bill, lower upper corner, marked “Pres Rdg” which means what the meter reading was during reading date. The same details are in page 3 of the bill.
If what you see in your meter is higher than this number, but not too far off, then chances are the meter reading is right. But if the number you see in the meter is much lower than that in the bill, then I suggest you take a picture of it, and get in touch with Meralco immediately. There could have been a mistake, or at least, like Piolo does, you deserve an explanation. Try contacting them in the customer hotlines provided in the bill, or contact their Facebook page (sometimes they respond after a few hours).
Make sure you are reading the correct electric meter (check the meter number), not your neighbors’. Make sure you also know how to read the electric meter properly, most electric meters now are already digital anyway, so it should be easy. When I was a child, our electric meter still consisted of 4 black dials in yellow circles, but my handyman Tatay also taught me how to read it.
I’m also giving consideration to the meter readers who risked their lives going all over the Metro just to read our electric meters, even in the absence of public transport, and all the checkpoints and temperature checks and wearing of annoying but necessary facemasks the whole day. That job is not easy!
I’m not saying they are prone to errors, I’m just saying errors can happen, there are some mistakes along the way which I’m sure are not intentional. So just check your meter if you have apprehensions about the amount due. If you can, shut down all your appliances for a while and check whether the meter still keeps on running even if you’re not consuming any electricity. Someone might have installed a jumper and piggybacking on your electricity bill.
If you keep your old Meralco billing statements, you can also see the Previous Reading in there. The Pres Rdg (present reading) in the old bill (around March) should match the Prev Rdg (previous reading) for this new bill (Mar to Jun).
But I Paid Even During ECQ!
If you did and paid on time, you should also see it in page 2 of your bill, upper right corner under “Total Applied Credits”.
Remember, the amount we paid for March to May were just estimates, in our case P2,000 (P900 and P1,100 to be exact).
The billing now is the actual for March to June 8 (reading date for our case), so if you paid the March to May, that payment should have been deducted from your total amount due and the remaining amount due for this real billing should reflect that. In our case, our total is P7,500 for March to June 8 (ECQ days). But since we paid the P2,000, our remaining due now is P5,500. These should be clearly indicated in the upper right corner of page 2 of your billing.
In our case, our bill reached an average of P2,500 per month (that is, P7,500 divided by 3 months), so it increased by P800 per month compared to pre-ECQ days (vs P1,700 per month). That’s why I said I think it’s reasonable enough for our case given that our usage, in my perception, almost doubled (from just nighttime to whole day for the last 3 months). I was actually expecting around P3,000 per month. Sometimes it’s good to manage one’s expectations. Or expect the worst.
Note that I no longer bothered with the actual usage in killowatt per hour or KwH but you can also do that to check. For this article, I just focused on the actual amounts. I also did not bother with the fluctuating rates, generation rates, etc, but in general, electricity is more expensive during summer due to high demand.
Sidenote: Meralco is always at the receiving end of customer complaints because they are the one who bills us, they are the frontliners, the tellers in banks and the customer service in telcos. It’s a classic case of shooting the messenger. But if you look closely to the left of the bar chart, a breakdown of your billing is provided, and there, it’s shown that Meralco is only in charge of distribution (or 25% of our total bill). A huge part of what we pay goes to generation, some to transmission and taxes. Just saying.
Can I Pay in Installments?
Yes. In page 3 of the billing statement, Meralco gives us a love letter trying to explain why our bills are much higher, highlighting 2 things: higher usage during ECQ as most people are staying at home, and hot summer weather. On the right side of it are some more explanations and instructions on how to pay in installments.
They’re saying that you only need to pay 1/4 or 25% of the total amount due, and then the remaining 3/4 or 75% can be paid in installments. Depending on February usage, those who used less than 200 KWH may pay in 6-gives or 6 installments, while those who used up more than 200 KwH in Feb2020 may pay in 4 installments (with schedules indicated in billing statement).
Why allow more installments for those who consumed smaller electricity? I don’t know, ask Meralco, maybe it was ERC’s directive? Or maybe, their line of thinking is that those who consumed less are maybe those from lower socio-economic classes, hence they have less money and capacity-to-pay, hence longer installment. While those who consumed more electricity are probably those who have big houses, many appliances, the richer customers who have more money to pay. That’s just my thinking though. And I agree with that reasoning.
But if you can, only if you can, I suggest you pay in full now, assuming you more or less agree with the amount being billed to you. Similar to if you had loans that were under payment holiday / moratorium during ECQ / MECQ and such moratorium is over, if you can, pay your loans in full now. If you can.
Remember, you continue using electricity for the rest of June, July, August etc. So these billings will come due as well, and by then, the installments you availed in June will be an additional amount to pay. So if you can, if you’ve been blessed enough to have steady income despite the ECQ / MECQ, I suggest you already pay in full. Our hearts and prayers and humble donations go to those who have lost their jobs and sources of income during the ECQ / MECQ and maybe even until now. I hope and pray that these people find new jobs and sources of income soon, even if the pandemic does not seem to go away here in our country.
For those who need to pay their Meralco bill online via installments, a new ATM reference number is provided in page 3 of the bill — you’ll need that if you pay your bill online via bank apps or via GCash / Paymaya.
#GrowYourMoney #BeFinanciallyFree #InvestMoneyPH #GYMBFF