GEBE seeks suspension of costly fuel clause ruling

POSTED: 03/6/11 9:22 PM

St. Maarten – The battle between the Westin Hotel and utilities company GEBE over inflated water bills and contested fuel clause charges continued silently Friday when parties submitted new documents to the common court of Justice, whereby GEBE asks the court to suspend the February 22 court ruling that obliges it to repay almost $170,000 plus an undisclosed amount for fuel clause charges that may come close to $2 million.

The potential fall-out of the verdict for GEBE – especially demands from other large-scale consumers like hotels and businesses to drop the fuel clause on their water bills as well – is enormous. However, for the time being the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade association takes a wait-and-see approach. SHTA President Emil Lee told this newspaper that “individual hotels have negotiated individual agreements about their rates.”

Lee notes that the case is still in appeal. “If the outcome is that no fuel clause should be applied to the water bills, our members will follow this closely and see how it works out.”

The Westin has contested GEBE’s request to suspend the February 22 court ruling. The hotel’s attorneys bring a number of technical arguments to the table, but they also refer to the cumbersome communication with the utilities company. “When the Westin asked GEBE to explain in which way it calculates the fuel clause for the water bills, it never received a reply. “GEBE maintains as its haughty policy that she does not wish to communicate with individual clients and that she is only accountable to the government,” Westin’s attorney Maarten le Poole wrote in his pleading against GEBE’s request.

GEBE never presented a justification for then fuel clause on water bills, also not after Westin invited the utilities company to do so in December. In the request to suspend the court ruling, GEBE wrote that it uses the fuel clause “at the instruction of St. Maarten.”

Le Poole concludes that “crying is coming too late for GEBE” and that then utilities company will have to comply with the February 22 ruling.

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