SC to MERALCO: Prior Written Notice at Least 48 Hours Before Disconnection is Indispensable
June 30, 2023
Affirming the rights of consumers, the Supreme Court has denied the petition of the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) assailing a Court of Appeals (CA) Decision which affirmed that the electric firm violated R.A. 7832, or the Anti-Electricity and Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994, for cutting off the electricity supply of a consumer without prior notice.
In her complaint for damages against MERALCO, respondent Lucy Yu alleged that on December 9, 1999, representatives from MERALCO forcibly entered the premises of the New Supersonic Industrial Corporation (NSIC) in Valenzuela City, which her family owned. After the inspection, the MERALCO representatives issued a Notice of Disconnection and immediately disconnected the electricity supply of NSIC’s factory and Yu’s residence.
Respondent Yu then filed a complaint for damages before Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela City, Branch 172. The RTC ruled in Yu’s favor prompting MERALCO to elevate the case to the CA, which affirmed the RTC ruling with modification. MERALCO then appealed before the High Court.
In denying MERALCO’s petition for review on certiorari, the Court ruled 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. The Court emphasized that the said prior written notice must be given at least 48 hours prior to the disconnection, pursuant to due process requirements. Thus, the act of MERALCO in cutting off the respondent’s electricity on the same day the disconnection notice was given to the consumer was violative of due process requirements, said the Court.
The Court further held that MERALCO is presumed to be in bad faith for its failure to follow the due notice requirement under R.A. 7832 during the disconnection of the Yu’s electric service.
Hence, it denied MERALCO’s Petition for Review on Certiorari, and affirmed the Decision dated November 26, 2020 of the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 111808, as follows: the award of temperate damages is reduced to P50,000; the award of moral damages is deleted for lack of basis; and the award of exemplary damages is reduced to P100,000. The Court ordered that the rest of the CA ruling stands.