The inspecting personnel from the local electric cooperative in our place conducted an inspection in our barangay. The inspecting personnel entered my compound and claimed that my electric meter was tampered, after which they immediately disconnected my electric service. I complained before the office of the local electric cooperative; however, the latter said I have to pay the amount of P112,000, so that my electric service will be reconnected. I did not do anything on that electric meter, in fact I did not even read my electric consumption; hence, I did not even have a chance to touch the said device. I would like to know if the action of the electric cooperative in disconnecting my electric service is allowed?
Violations of law were committed by the electric cooperative in disconnecting your electric service without complying with the requirements of Republic Act No. 7832. In case of meter tampering, it is a requirement under Section 4 of the said law, that the immediate disconnection must be done after due notice to the person concerned. Under the same law, the presence of any of the following circumstances shall constitute prima facie evidence of illegal use of electricity:
“(i) The presence of a bored hole on the glass cover of the electric meter, or at the back or any other part of said meter;
(ii) The presence inside the electric meter of salt, sugar and other elements that could result in the inaccurate registration of the meter’s internal parts to prevent its accurate registration of consumption of electricity;
(iii) The existence of any wiring connection which affects the normal operation or registration of the electric meter;
(iv) The presence of a tampered, broken, or fake seal on the meter, or mutilated, altered or tampered meter recording chart or graph, or computerized chart, graph, or log;
(v) The presence in any part of the building or its premises which is subject to the control of the consumer or on the electric meter, of a current reversing transformer, jumper, shorting and/or shunting wire, and/or loop connection or any other similar device;
(vi) The mutilation, alteration, reconnection, disconnection, bypassing or tampering of instruments, transformers, and accessories;
(vii) The destruction of, or attempt to destroy, any integral accessory of the metering device box which encases an electric meter, or its metering accessories; and
(viii) The acceptance of money and/or other valuable consideration by any officer of employee of the electric utility concerned or the making of such an offer to any such officer or employee for not reporting the presence of any of the circumstances enumerated in subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (v), (vi), or (vii) hereof: Provided, however, That the discovery of any of the foregoing circumstances, in order to constitute prima facie evidence, must be personally witnessed and attested to by an officer of the law or a duly authorized representative of the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB).
Xxx xxx xxx.”
In your case, the electric cooperative failed to give due notice and the inspection was not even witnessed by an officer of the law or a duly authorized representative of the Energy Regulatory Board. Further, your meter was not subjected to a laboratory test in order to support their allegation of meter tampering. These are the indications that the electric cooperative exceeded its authority in disconnecting your electric service which could be a ground for legal action against the electric cooperative.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org