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Appellate court ruling rains on ComEd’s parade

Ever had to suffer through a long, expensive, food-spoiling power outage?

Yep, it stinks.20140811_ComEdStorms_fb

Even worse, for years, ComEd has dodged giving compensation to its customers in such outages. Those days may be over, thanks to a recent Illinois Appellate Court decision.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported recently that the Appellate Court upheld an Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) ruling that the power giant must reimburse up to 35,000 customers for damages connected to long outages during the bad summer storms of 2011.

We’re not accustomed to getting such victories on the “storm front.” Julie Wernau, an energetic Chicago Tribune, and her comrade, Joe Germuska, did some digging in 2011 and found that the ICC had never ordered an electric utility to compensate customers who file claims after a bad outage (one that slams more than 30,000 customers for at least four hours).

How did ComEd dodge it? The company often claimed such outages were an “act of God,” and not its fault. The company also defined outages in a way that kept them below the 30,000 threshold.

However, consumer advocates didn’t give up the fight, and the ICC in 2013 determined that among the hundreds of thousands who lost power for more than four hours at a time during those violent 2011 storms, about 34,559 were “preventable.”

ComEd says it’s received 1,094 claims so far. The company didn’t notify all of the affected customers while the ruling was being appealed. (Read CUB’s fact sheet on the storm compensation ruling. )

As you can imagine, ComEd’s not happy, and we wouldn’t be suprised if the company appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Still, we’ll take the victory at this step, and prepare for more stormy weather–outside, and in the courts.