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Manila Electric Company (Meralco) said it is waiving the P47 convenience fee charged to customers paying electricity bill via its app amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Waived na ‘yan (convenience fee), during this ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) [due to COVID-19]….sinulatan kami ng Department of Energy (DOE), and we adjust based on what the environment is, iyong feedback,” , Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said in Dobol B sa News TV report.

“Minsan hindi mo rin talaga makikita lahat. Before the ECQ, may usage lang ng app from certain segment [ng customers], we sincerely apologize na hindi namin nakita na tataas ang volume [ng usage],” he added.

Zaldarriaga then assured the customers that those who already paid the P47 convenience fee will get a refund.

“Hahanap po kami ng paraan paano maibabalik sa kanila,” he said.

“Kami na po ang magbabayad sa third party provider para hindi na sila mahirapan,” Zaldarriaga added.

The Meralco app was launched on September 12, 2018 as an additional 24/7 online payment channel for customers. It also allows its customers to  file service applications for both sales and after-sales, view their account/ billing/ payment records, report outages/concerns, and access other value-added services, such as energy efficiency tips, appliance calculator and business center locator.

As such, Meralco bills paid via the Meralco app go through a payment gateway operated and maintained by PayMaya which is linked to the Visa and Mastercard networks.

In a separate letter to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Meralco president and chief executive officer Ray Espinosa explained that PayMaya charges the Meralco customer a convenience fee of P47, and that no part of the amount goes to Meralco.

“The charging of a convenience fee by a payment gateway provider like PayMaya is a common commercial practice in the online payment service industry,” he said.

Be that as it may, Espinosa apologized for continued charging of P47 convenience fee when other channels for Meralco payment have been closed due to quarantine measures amid COVID-19.

“Perhaps what Meralco should have done during the ECQ period of March 16 to May 15 was to shoulder the convenience fee charged by the payment gateway provider, considering that the Meralco Business Offices and Bayad Center branches and partner outlets were closed during that time. I sincerely apologize for this lapse,” Espinosa said.

“I wish to assure you that we will be more sensitive in the future and ever mindful of the best interest and well-being of our customers,” he added.

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