Report could mean no HECO payouts
POSTED: Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A new report that concluded Hawaiian Electric Co. was not responsible for islandwide power outages following the October 2006 earthquake could spell bad news for more than 1,440 customers who filed claims against the company.
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According to HECO policy, it is not required to reimburse customers for outages that are out of its control. A report by the state Public Utilities Commission found that the company had acted reasonably after a Big Island earthquake and aftershock on Oct. 15, 2006, that left Maui and Oahu without electricity for hours.
After the 2006 blackout, HECO received more than 1,440 claims from customers seeking reimbursement for their damaged goods - from televisions to cable sets to spoiled food.
But the company, before it acted on any claims, has been waiting more than two years for the PUC report.
The 60-page report agreed with HECO that it had done all it could but that the blackouts were "unavoidable" because of the quake, which measured 6.7 in magnitude.
Darren Pai, HECO spokesman, didn't speculate on the impact the PUC's decision could have on the claims, saying the company will evaluate the claims on a "case-by-case basis."
"We're going to give the claims a final evaluation in light of the PUC's decision," Pai said yesterday. "Once we finalize that decision, we're going to inform our customers."
State Consumer Advocate Catherine Awakuni also couldn't assess definitively the impact of the PUC conclusion, but said HECO's policy states it would not be responsible in these types of situations.
"We're in the process of determining the impact of the decision," Awakuni said. "The (rules) for each of the companies specify in layman's terms that (if events are) out of their control, then they are not responsible for paying those kinds of claims."
According to HECO's Rule 16, which is found on its Web site, "The company will not be liable for interruption or insufficiency of supply or any loss, cost, damage or expense of any nature whatsoever, occasioned thereby if caused by accident, storm, fire, strikes, riots, war or any cause not within the company's control through the exercise of reasonable diligence and care."
Pai did not have an estimate on the time it would take for HECO to respond to the claims.
Meanwhile, HECO continues to investigate the cause of the most recent islandwide blackout on Oahu on Friday that left most areas without power for 12 hours.
After HECO conducts its own investigation, a similar process will follow: Awakuni's office will also look into the blackout to determine if there was anything more HECO could have done. That will be followed by a PUC investigation.
HECO has received 195 requests for claims in the last two days, according to Pai. Beginning yesterday, HECO customers could download the claims form from its Web site.