Solon pushes refund for water, power, internet interruptions

MANILA – A lawmaker on Thursday pushed for the proposal requiring utility companies to refund or adjust the monthly billing of consumers for unannounced and unscheduled interruptions not attributable to natural calamities.

In a statement, Davao Oriental Rep. Cheeno Miguel Almario said the interruptions in the services of utility firms such as power, water and internet adversely impact people and economy resulting in actual and opportunity losses.

Almario said House Bill 8191 seeks to address the losses incurred by the consumers through minute-based forfeiture on fixed and overhead costs charges of utility service companies when unannounced or unintended service interruptions occur.

“There is this sort of covenant between utility service providers and consumers that in exchange for the right payment is the right service,” Almario said.

He said the measure will hold companies accountable to the standards they guaranteed when they applied and granted franchises to operate.

He pointed out that these franchises last for 25 years, arguing that the losses people and the country incur add up in that amount of time.

“We routinely receive our monthly billings regardless of the power outages, water supply interruptions, or internet connection problems. These utility companies don’t fail to charge us even if they don’t deliver on the quality of service they promised. We hope to remedy that,” Almario said.

He cited that the Philippines is the most “internet poor” country in Southeast Asia according to Austria-based enterprise World Data Lab.

While in terms of global internet performance, he said the country ranks 79th and 41st in mobile and broadband speeds, respectively based on the March 2023 report of Ookla.

He also cited a report published in May 2023 by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) stating that the economy loses about PHP556 million in a five-hour power outage.

He said once the bill is enacted into law, utility companies will have to pay back their customers through refund or bill adjustments if the cumulative service interruptions reach 24 hours or more, including subscribers of prepaid services.

The minute-based forfeitures shall apply from the time the unintended and unannounced electricity, water and telecommunications service interruption starts until the service is fully restored.

The minute-based forfeiture rates shall be determined by the Energy Regulatory Commission, Local Water Utility Administration and National Telecommunications Commission, as the case may be in coordination with the other concerned government agencies. (PNA)

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