Santee Cooper, a South Carolina owned utility provider, is being sued for raising rates to pay for a building project but never returning the rates to their old prices after the project was completed, as they had agreed to. The suit alleges that the utility company owes around 150,000 customers hundreds of millions of dollars in paybacks for the 1994-1995 rate increase, an AP Report states.
“In a nutshell, Santee Cooper raised their rates to pay for a capital improvement project. It was only for a set amount of time. After that period, they were supposed to lower it, and they never reduced the rate like they were supposed to,” said Don E. Watson a Myrtle Beach motel and restaurant owner who is the lead plaintiff in the suit.
Santee Cooper is a state-owned electric and water utility that generates the power sold to the 20 electric cooperatives throughout South Carolina. The utility is reviewing the lawsuit and has 30 days to respond.
Municipal utilities like Santee Cooper have limits on the amount of monies they can charge consumers for their products. Generally speaking, it is illegal to take advantage of a buyer, through lies, trickery, implied threats or other immoral and illegal practices. The law gives consumers a chance to fight unfair and illegal practices in the civil courts, and sometimes allows criminal penalties as well. These South Carolina consumer protection laws apply to everything from consumer products, to medicines, to municipal utilities.