P13-B class suit filed vs Meralco

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A CONSUMERS group yesterday filed a class suit against the Lopez-owned Manila Electric Company seeking the refund of at least P13 billion in alleged illegal fees collected by Meralco from its customers since 1994 up to present.

Calling itself the Refund Energy Fees Unjustly Debited or REFUND, the group asked the Makati Regional Trial Court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would prevent Meralco from further collecting pass-on charges to its millions of subscribers.

Leonard de Vera, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, led the filing of the 36-page complaint against Meralco.

Aside from the TRO and preliminary injunction against the collection of system loss charges by the Meralco, the group also asked the court to order the utility firm to open its books for auditing and accounting.

De Vera represents the group Equal Justice For All Movement, one of the 89 member-organization s of REFUND, which also include the anti-crime watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption led by Dante Jimenez.

The other defendants in the lawsuit are the National Power Corporation and the Energy Regulatory Commission.

De Vera said that in the first quarter of the year alone, Meralco earned P665 million in net profit and yet they collected from consumers P10billion in metering charges, and P2.8 billion for the pension of the company’s retiring employees last year.

He reiterated that the utility company declared the interests in the so-called metering charges as dividends, which they divided among themselves.

“More revolting and unconscionable is defendant Meralco’s admission that for the year 2007, it passed on and collected from here-in class plaintiffs the total amount of P531 million worth of electricity which it used for its own offices and other facilities as part of its so-called system losses,” De Vera said.

The plaintiff sought another TRO to stop ERC and Napocor from granting Meralco’s further requests for an increase in electricity rates.