The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld a ruling that the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) violated the law when it disconnected the electricity of a consumer without giving her at least 48 hours of prior written notice.
The SC affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) that awarded damages to customer Lucy Lu, the owner of New Supersonic Industrial Corporation (NSIC) in Valenzuela City, whose power supply was cut off by Meralco on Dec. 9, 1999.
Lu said that Meralco representatives entered her premises by force and issued a notice of disconnection on the same day they disconnected the electricity of NSIC’s factory and Lu’s residence.
She filed a complaint against Meralco for violating the Anti-Electricity and Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994, or Republic Act (RA) 7832, which requires prior written notice before disconnection.
The SC denied Meralco’s petition for review and said that the power company failed to follow due process requirements by not giving Lu enough time to contest or remedy the disconnection.
It also said that Meralco acted in bad faith and ordered it to pay Lu P50,000 in temperate damages and P100,000 in exemplary damages.
The SC said that before Meralco can disconnect the electric service of a consumer on grounds cited under Section 4(a) of RA 7832, there must be prior written notice to the consumer to disconnect. It stressed that the prior written notice must be given at least 48 hours before the disconnection, as required by due process.
The SC added that Meralco is presumed to be in bad faith for its failure to follow the due notice requirement under RA 7832 during the disconnection of Lu’s electric service.
The high court also noted that Meralco did not present any evidence to prove that Lu was involved in any illegal use of electricity or pilferage of electric transmission lines/materials/equipment.
It said that Meralco’s act of disconnecting Lu’s power supply without prior notice caused her undue inconvenience, loss of income, and mental anguish.