In a quest to empower and safeguard the interests of electricity consumers in Bacolod City and Central Negros, consumer advocacy group Power Watch Negros is urging eligible Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) customers to claim their bill deposit refund. This initiative is a direct response to the provisions outlined in Article 7 of the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers. This actually guarantees a refund of the bill deposit for consumers. Consumers who pay their electric bills on time for three consecutive years are eligible to claim this refund. Let’s look into the significance of these refunds, the efforts of Power Watch Negros, and the similar actions taken by MORE Electric and Power Corp. in Iloilo City.
The Importance of a Bill Deposit Refund
What is a bill deposit?
A bill deposit is a payment made by consumers when applying for electricity service. This serves as a safeguard for utility companies to ensure the payment of bills. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) mandates that distribution utilities refund the bill deposit to consumers. Consumer members become eligible for this refund after three years of timely payments with no record of disconnections.
The bill deposit refund is a consumer’s right, and distribution utilities should proactively return the amount to eligible consumers. It does not belong to the distribution utility, in this case, CENECO, but rightfully, to the consumers.
Power Watch Negros Takes the Lead
Power Watch Negros Secretary-General Wennie Sancho is spearheading the campaign to urge eligible CENECO consumers to claim their bill deposit refund.
To facilitate the process, Power Watch Negros approached the Finance Department of CENECO and requested certification. This aims to confirm the status and amount of bill deposits classified as restricted funds, which they need to deposit in a reputable bank.
They are planning to establish a Refund Center to assist qualified consumers in commencing the application process. Furthermore, Power Watch Negros believes that the refund will significantly help augment the meager income of consumers during times of adversity.
Similar Initiatives: MORE Electric and Power Corp. in Iloilo City
MORE Electric President and CEO Roel Castro, has already initiated bill deposit refunds for Iloilo City consumers. In a recent statement, the company announced that around P4 million have been allocated for this purpose. Three customers were ceremonially given around P2,500 at the MORE Power office. By December, there were 841 qualified customers who also received their refunds.
The company fully follows the Magna Carta guidelines, ensuring rightful refunds for consumers.
CENECO’s Debts and the Need for Action
It has come to public knowledge that CENECO is facing financial challenges, with significant borrowings and debts as of June 2023. Sadly, even the restricted funds, including the bill deposits, have been utilized by CENECO to cover their losses. This situation makes it crucial for consumers to claim their bill deposit refunds promptly, as CENECO no longer possesses the funds and needs financial solutions to meet its obligations.
Is There Still Hope For Us to Claim Our Bill Deposit Refund?
The Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between CENECO and Primeelectric that would form NEGROS Power could potentially provide a viable solution for consumers to claim their bill deposit refunds.
This Joint Venture Agreement includes Primelectric/Negros Power paying CENECO PhP 1.7 billion for its assets. Now with cash on hand, CENECO can fulfill its responsibility to refund consumers’ bill deposits.
What We Need To Realize
As consumers, it is very important for us to be aware of our rights and entitlements. The bill deposit refund is a financial relief that consumers have earned through consistent on-time payments.
Power Watch Negros’ campaign and the example set by MORE Electric and Power Corp. just demonstrate to us the importance of claiming this refund promptly. Plus, we now know that this is possible.
Proactive and informed consumers can ensure to protect their rights and receive the refund they rightly deserve.
Meanwhile, eligible CENECO consumers should take advantage of the Refund Center set up by Power Watch Negros and claim their bill deposit refunds without delay. Let us all stand together and assert our consumer rights!