Ako Bicol pushes for truth in billing

A partylist lawmaker at the House of Representatives is pushing for the swift approval of a measure mandating all public utilities to render their customers complete, honest, and comprehensible billing statements.

AKO Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe filed House Bill 818 known as the “Truth in Billing Act of 2016” which requires the disclosure of all charges in billing statements for water, power, wire or wireless communications, and broadcasting utilities.

Batocabe stressed the need to protect consumers from unfair practices by service providers in the form of taxes or miscellaneous fees, which are often included to the billing statements without the consent of consumers.

“It is our job to bring to the consumers the services in power, water, and cellphone, and other bills, and make every centavo they pay count”, Batocabe said.

“Sometimes, billing statements may be overwhelming even to the critical and discerning consumers when layered with unnecessary imposed charges,” Batocabe noted.

The measure proposes truth-in-billing practices ensuring that consumers receive accurate and comprehensible bills from service providers and prohibits the improper imposition of charges.

With this truth-in-billing proposal, all rates, classifications, schedules, commutation, mileage, or other charges imposed, charged or collected by the utility providers will be presented comprehensively.

It shall also explain the purpose of all imposed charges and collections with the identity of any governmental tax for the accumulation of other fees.

Furthermore, utility providers are required to disclose the governmental authorities that sanctioned the imposition of the contributions.

“We want the utility providers to be prompt in their response to any unfortunate complaints on over-billings and other issues. We require the utility provider to address the complaints within five days. Failure to justify the questioned charge would result to the fee’s immediate removal,” Batocabe said.

Under the bill, consumers shall receive refunds for any amounts paid for an unauthorized charge or service reflected in the billing statement.

The bill mandates the National Telecommunications Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, and the National Water Resources Board to regulate and police over the public utilities.

Erring service providers who would commit violations against the proposed law shall be meted the penalty of not bigger than PHP100,000 to be imposed by the regulatory agencies. (Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)