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Meralco seeks rate hike to recover cost of billing, collections overhaul

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MANILA - (UPDATED 10:31 p.m.) The country's biggest electricity distributor has asked regulators to allow passing on to consumers the cost of overahauling the company's information technology for handling bills, collections and other customer transactions.

In a filing with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Manila Electric Co (Meralco) said its customer information system (CIS) project would cost P325 million for the upgrade of the company's 15-year old customer management system. The project is intended to improve service application, meter reading, billing, payments, collections and customer assistance for its more than 5.2 million customers.

Meralco proposed to recover from its customers the amount it will spend for the project over a four-year period starting 2015. The utility implemented the CIS in 2011 but covered only its medium and large industrial and commercial customers.

"In order to address the problems posed by technological obsolescence as well as future customer, regulatory, technological and industry requirements, Meralco proposes to also implement the CIS for its residential, general service, small commercial/industrial and flat streetlights customers," Meralco said in its application.

The project, once implemented, will allow all Meralco customers to benefit from additional retail transaction features such as "customer payment anywhere, anytime and whatever amount, sending of electric bills via email, better monitoring and handling of customer complaints."

The implementation of the CIS, Meralco said, is also necessary for the full commercial launch of prepaid electricity and open acces in the company's franchise area before the year ends.

"There is an urgent need for a provisional authority to be issued to allow Meralco to immediately start the implementation of the CIS project and complete the same on schedule, and therefore, enable it to implement an integrated customer information system as soon as possible so as to better serve its consumers," the company said.

InterAksyon.com is the online news portal of TV5, which like Meralco is chaired by Manuel V. Pangilinan.

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