BY IVAN ŠTULAJTER

Let the courts decide

The owners of some firms who are members of the Klub 500 group of rich industrial companies have in their hands a decision by the Constitutional Court saying that the energy market regulator broke the law in 2002 in publishing energy prices for 2003 without beforehand publishing a generally binding guideline on price creation.

The owners of some firms who are members of the Klub 500 group of rich industrial companies have in their hands a decision by the Constitutional Court saying that the energy market regulator broke the law in 2002 in publishing energy prices for 2003 without beforehand publishing a generally binding guideline on price creation.

The fact that energy prices in 2003 were regulated for a few months without a legal foundation does not automatically mean that these industrial consumers were injured and that they have a right to compensation. If the market regulator made an error, it was only a procedural one. Nor did the Constitutional Court decision address whether the error actually meant that gas and electricity prices were set higher than they should have been.

The regulator said in its defence that it was better to have issued a possibly controversial price decision than none at all, because in the latter case companies and other consumers would have had no protection against the abuse of prices by energy monopolies.

Klub 500 chairman Vladimír Soták, who is also the boss of one of the plaintiff firms (Železiárne Podbrezová), claims that the regulator's decision to issue a price ruling in conflict with the law caused the firms harm. He estimates the damages at about Sk2 billion, and wants the state to recompense him, either in court or through an out-of-court settlement.

Soták has a right to take the government to court, but the government has no right to settle it out of court. On top of that, Klub 500's legal representative is Ľubomír Fogaš, who has strong contacts with the ruling Smer party. It shouldn't be this easy.


Sme, February 19

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