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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Under bill, commercial power customers would not be charged retroactively for billing errors

Sen. Wanda Soto Tolentino, one of the bill’s co-sponsors

By The Star Staff

Commercial and industrial businesses in Puerto Rico will not be charged retroactively for errors in the reading of power meters if legislation to that effect becomes law.

Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve, along with Sens. Wanda Soto Tolentino, William Villafañe Ramos and Rubén Soto Rivera, introduced legislation Wednesday to prevent businesses from having to pay vast sums of money in their energy utility bills resulting from the errors committed by LUMA Energy and their failure to read energy meters.

The charter law of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority contains a limit of 120 days for the utility to charge retroactively for any calculation errors, including errors in billing estimates to customers.

“This legal protection only applies to residential customers; therefore, commercial and industrial customers are left unprotected,” Rodríguez Veve said. “This puts commercial customers in a different position than residential ones, exposing them to retroactive billing with no time limit, which translates into excessive charges due to mistakes by the electrical system administrator. This situation may jeopardize the stability and continuity of business in Puerto Rico.”

The senators introduced the bill amid media reports that some businesses were billed $20,000 to $30,000 because LUMA Energy estimated their consumer usage instead of reading the energy meters.

The proposed law also seeks to clarify that any retroactive charge on the electricity bill is free of interest, surcharges or penalties for all customers, Soto Rivera noted.

Finally, the law addresses the reasonableness of payment plans related to retroactive charges due to billing errors. Businesses would not have to pay an initial deposit if they arrange an installment plan to pay for the retroactive charges.

“It is important that the retroactive payment of any billing error does not end up affecting a business’ ability to operate or have electricity, recognizing that the main role of the administrator is to provide essential services and supplies to citizens,” Villafañe Ramos said.

Soto Tolentino added that “[t]his legislation does justice to all energy subscribers who suffer day by day from unreasonable and arbitrary billing riddled with adjustments, charges and interest due to a public corporation that does not think about people’s pockets, or about managing consistently.”

“Subscribers are already tired of making claims and not being answered,” she said. “This measure provides one more tool for citizens to face the impositions and collections at the hands of the [Power] Authority, so we have a fiduciary and moral duty to support any measure in favor of our people.”

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