CCJ dismisses challenge against electrical consumption arrears

On Tuesday 9th April 2024, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) delivered judgment in Che Jain Ping and Xiao Guang Zhao v Guyana Power and Light Inc. [2024] CCJ 8 (AJ) GY, a decision in its Appellate Jurisdiction. In a judgment authored by Mr Justice Andrew Burgess, the CCJ upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana.

The appellants were individuals doing business in Guyana under the trading names, ‘New Thriving Restaurant’ and ‘New Thriving Fast Food’. The respondent was Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL), a public utility company. The matter concerned a dispute between the parties in respect of arrears accrued by virtue of consumption of electricity supplied by GPL by the appellants. The electricity was supplied by GPL to the appellants for the period from January 2002 to July 2009. The appellants were billed monthly and at the end of the period, arrears on the appellants’ account exceeded payments credited to the account by the sum of GYD13,768,937.

An action was commenced before the High Court on 29 October 2010. The Court held that the appellants were liable to pay to GPL the sum of GYD13,768,937 as arrears for electricity supplied and not paid for by them. This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

By notice of appeal filed on 12 May 2023, the decision of the Court of Appeal was appealed to the CCJ. Firstly, the Court explained that s23 of the Electricity Sector Reform Act expressly creates a statutory contract for the supply of electricity between the parties as consumer and public electrical supplier. Next, the Court explained that reg 31(2) of the Public Electricity Supply Regulations (PESR) entitled GPL to access the Court by an action for breach of the electrical supply contract. Finally, it was held that the requirements of PESR reg 31(2) had been met, thereby entitling GPL to back bill the appellants beyond the 12-month period mentioned in PESR reg 31 (2) and claim full arrears in accrual.

In all the circumstances the appeal was dismissed, and the orders of the Court of Appeal were affirmed.

The matter was heard by the Honourable Mr Justice Adrian Saunders, President and the Honourable Justices Winston Anderson, Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Denys Barrow, and Andrew Burgess. Mr Stephen Fraser SC and Mrs Shantel Scott-Lall appeared for the appellants. Mr Timothy M Jonas SC and Ms Krystal Abrams appeared for the respondent.

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