On April 8, 2014 I wrote out my frustration about failing to pay my electricity bill – I discovered it saved as draft, unpublished.
Now, here it is – has anything changed?
Meralco + BPI Express Online = Fail
It’s the start of the month again, I logged in to BPI Express Online to pay my Meralco bill. But I remembered that Meralco updated the Account Number of my account making my current enrollment in BPI invalid. Countless times, I tried to enroll my new Account Number to no avail.
Meralco + BPI = Fail
So, I went to a nearby BPI branch to pay the bill. But lucky me, the teller said that they don’t accept overdue payments. You know, when you’re paying the bill past the due date stated on the bill? I looked at my bill and drat, yes, due date was yesterday – April 6, Sunday.
Meralco + LBC = Fail
I headed to an LBC across the street – still, they don’t accept overdue payments. It’s as if Meralco automatically becomes unlisted in their roster of “accepted bills” after the bill’s due date.
Meralco punishes you for not paying on time
Apparently, overdue payments are only accepted at Meralco Business Centers. So I remotely asked my wife to pay the bill at the nearest business center. It was near, all right and if she had free time. But the line was long – like 45-minutes long. That night after work, I dared myself to come home.
Online payments = FTW; Old Business Centers = WTF
Let me clarify – old business centers as the only acceptable payment center is WTF.
The main benefit of online payment of bills is that wherever you are, whatever you do, you can make the payment. It goes the same with Third Part Agents (TPAs) such as banks (BPI, BDO) and payment centers (LBC, Bayad Center) – chances are they are just around the corner, competing for customers like us. Unlike the handful Meralco Business Centers that would require you to book a flight to get there.
Meralco does not have a well-rounded grace period in bill payments. After the stated due date, it then limits you to paying only at any of their Business Centers. But chances are, there’s only one in your area. And like I said, one must take a trip to reach it.
Don’t limit customers who are so willing to pay their bills – anywhere, anyhow they want.
I interviewed Meralco’s customer service via Facebook Messenger and found out about their schedule from meter reading to billing to letting you live by the candlelight.
The person behind the screen also explained the reason behind the problem: it takes 3 days for TPAs (third party agents like BPI, Bayad Center) to report the payment to Meralco – and I assume, if they didn’t have some kind of ban, by the time Meralco receives your payment, you already duped them into thinking that you deserved that glowing television light despite being an overdue payee.
Let’s see how Meralco could afford being forgiving by allowing TPAs to accept late payments (with a grace period, of course).
I dub it the Meralco Billing Schedule (this is the normal process as I calculated it):
- March 27: Meter reading
- March 30: Bill delivery – 3 days after meter reading
- April 6: Bill due date – 7 days after bill delivery or 10 days after meter reading
- April 9: Notice of disconnection – 3 days after bill due date
- April 15: Order of disconnection – 6 days after notice of disconnection
As you can see, there is a total of 9 days before the SWAT comes barging in your front yard and disconnecting you from a line more important than online.
Meralco could still afford to let TPAs accept payments up to 3 days after issuing the notice of disconnection (April 12). That will leave the required 3 days of TPA reporting of payments.
I talked to a colleague a month ago – he’s working on a bill payment system wherein Meralco is one of the billers. To my surprise, it is still fashionable in this day and age to prolong the suffering of people already without TV and fridge.
How I prevented this anomaly from happening ever again? I enrolled all my bills in Citi One Bill.