OAG: Reselling power is illegal

Senator also eyes legislation for clarity and punishment

It is illegal to resell power.

That’s according to Attorney General Edward Manibusan yesterday, citing the NMI Administrative Code.

This comes soon after it came to light that some landlords charge their tenants for power at a rate much higher than the one set by the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

“NMIAC 50-10-340 allows commercial customers to allocate the cost of power among tenants, but prohibits the reselling of power,” said Manibusan in a statement.

NMIAC 50-10-340 specifically states that, “Electric power sold by CUC to a customer shall not be resold by the customer to third parties.”

However, the same section further notes that a “…commercial customer may allocate the cost of electric power among tenants.”

Further, landlords are required by the Administrative Code to use American National Standards Institute rated C-12.1 meters with cyclometer dials.

Sen. Teresita Santos (Ind-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune yesterday that she is already working with the Senate legal counsel on legislation that would punish landlords for overcharging tenants through sub-meters. Santos chairs the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communications.

“Commonwealth Utilities Corp. policy is very clear that no landlord can increase or add additional charges to what CUC bills the customer. That is the regulation and I stand by that,” she said.

Saipan Tribune learned yesterday that landlords are applying for master meters with CUC and installing sub-meters for their tenants. The tenants then pay the landlord their rates for power based on the sub-meter multiplied by their monthly power use, often at a much higher rate than CUC.

Reports noted that some tenants are paying over 40 cents to nearly 60 cents per kWh while CUC charges at most $0.1580 for 1,200 kWh levels and over.

“I am going to introduce legislation to prohibit this and restrict it, because [existing law and policies] are very specific that landlords cannot impose additional fees other than what CUC charges the customers,” Santos said.

Similar to what Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) stated earlier, Santos wants to impose fines and possibly jail time for violators. She wants to go as far as revoking the business license of a landlord who is doing this.

“The price of electrical power is a regulated service by the Public Utilities Commission. Allowing persons [such as landlords] to purchase electrical power and resell it to segments of the general public at a price greater than the regulated price defeats the purpose of Public Utilities Commission protection of the public from unreasonable charges,” Propst noted in a social media post.

“Any purchaser of electrical power from a public utility should be prohibited from reselling the power for a rate in excess of the rate approved by the Public Utilities Commission or paid by the purchaser, or they should have their rates approved by the Public Utilities Commission,” he added.

“We have tenants paying 42 cents to 60 cents a kilowatt hour. If this is not criminal, then it should be,” he noted in a separate social media post.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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