“When a company owns one precise thought in the consumer’s mind, it sets the context for everything and there should be no distinction between brand, product, service and experience.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — Back in May 1993 when the Panay Electric Company (PECO) was applying for a 25-year extension of franchise in the Iloilo City Council, among the demands of the committee on public services, environmental protection and committee on ecology, transportation, energy and public utilities from the power utility’s top echelons during the public hearings was to put up a meter reading system.
Among the central issues raised against PECO was the “astronomical” distribution and generations fees, and, of course, the “lack of proper meter reading system” that irked so many consumers, including then prominent businessman William Bayani, who filed a case against PECO.
For several weeks, PECO underwent intense grilling from Councilors German Gonzalez, Achilles Plagata, Rolando Dabao, Eduardo Laczi, and Perla Zulueta.
It was agreed that the meter reading system was necessary in order to provide the correct and accurate reading of the power consumed by the consumers and avoid overcharging.
The City Council approved PECO’s application for extension of franchise. Under the law, it must get Congress’ imprimatur after sailing through the local legislature.
Before PECO got endorsement from the City Council, it was bombarded with multitudes of complaints from various consumers groups in a series of public hearings.
A proposal to turn it into a people’s cooperative had been torpedoed.
After 24 years, Councilor Joshua Alim, through a formal resolution, asked PECO to establish a “meter reading card system.”
Alim wanted to avoid confusion and complaints over the consumers’ power consumption.
Alim wants PECO to post a meter reading card system to each consumer’s house where the monthly consumption is reflected and recorded.
The system will help consumers to easily appraise his monthly consumption, make a comparison, and even file the necessary complaint if there are discrepancies before the issuance of a billing receipt.
Alim’s ordinance has been referred to the city council’s committee on public utilities chaired by Councilor R Leonie Gerochi after hurdling the first reading, it was reported.
While the issue was being tackled in the City Council, PECO reportedly disclosed that it was actually trying to improve its metering system using the modern Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI).
“All readings are programmed to go directly to the computers of PECO without any actual meter readers needed on the field. This eliminates the human factor in meter reading and customers can fully rely on the accuracy of the billing,” said Mikel C. Afzelius, PECO’s corporate communications officer.
The first 1,000 “smart meters” will be installed this April 2017.
PECO is expected to again seek another extension of its franchise in 2017 and might again knock on the door of the City Council.