Reader’s Letter: GEBE: It’s a matter of restitution

POSTED: 07/7/11 2:47 PM

Dear Editor,

I’ve been following the GEBE saga reported in the papers rather closely of late. The recent motion that the National Alliance brought forward to reduce the GEBE fuel clause by 50 percent for the next six months was a good start. The fact that it was not supported by the UP/DP coalition was indeed a missed opportunity not only for the people of St.Maarten, but for GEBE as well.

Six months of collecting 50 percent of the current fuel clause would be a small price for GEBE to pay in order to make up for what it has been doing to the people of St.Maarten for years. That is, “overcharging its consumers to compensate for very poor management”, not my words, but those of GEBE’s own Supervisory Board.

Looking back in time, there was a big scandal involving a former GEBE engineer who was tampering with the clients’ meters to lower their bills for a fee. The customers involved paid restitution to GEBE for, in local parlance, “thiefing” electricity in order to avoid prosecution. Now that it has come to light that GEBE has been “thiefing” from its customers by inflating the actual cost of the fuel it uses via the fuel clause mechanism. Shouldn’t they be required to make restitution to their victims: the people of St.Maarten?

All over the world restitution is a common requirement meted out in court decisions both civil and criminal. One legal definition describes restitution as “the equitable remedy of restoring to an aggrieved party that, which was obtained in unjust enrichment”. Now I’m not a lawyer, but the manner in which GEBE has been allowed to profit from its fuel clause, certainly sounds like unjust enrichment to me. Whether the courts would agree, that remains to be seen.

Having already lost in court once with the case brought on by The Westin Hotel over its application of the fuel clause, I would think GEBE would be seeking to avoid any future litigation. So yes, the opportunity to adopt the NA motion and thus temporarily placate its entire customer base was certainly a missed one indeed.

Andy Croxall

 

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