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PHILADELPHIA ELECTRIC COMPANY v. HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION (05/04/72)

decided: May 4, 1972.

PHILADELPHIA ELECTRIC COMPANY
v.
HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in case of Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission v. Philadelphia Electric Company, No. P-750.

COUNSEL

Ernest R. von Starck, with him Allen W. Stewart and, of counsel, Edward G. Bauer, Jr., and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for appellant.

Roy Yaffe, with him S. Asher Winikoff, General Counsel, Robert S. Englesberg, Assistant General Counsel, and J. Shane Creamer, Attorney General, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and Rogers. Judge Blatt disqualified herself and did not participate. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 5 Pa. Commw. Page 330]

This is an appeal from an interlocutory order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) denying the appellant, Philadelphia Electric Company's (Company), motion to dismiss the PHRC's own complaint for lack of jurisdiction of the subject matter. By virtue of PHRC's certification of its opinion that its order involves a controlling question of law, we

[ 5 Pa. Commw. Page 331]

    have, pursuant to Section 501(b) of Art. V of the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, 17 P.S. § 211.501(b), permitted this appeal.

The complaint initiated by and before the PHRC alleges that the Company has violated Section 5(i) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, as amended, 43 P.S. § 955(i), by engaging in racially discriminatory practices (1) in withholding from blacks the services of its home economics department, (2) in applying more stringent rules relating to security deposits and exacting greater amounts of such deposits from blacks, and (3) in terminating service for non-payment of bills more quickly and for lesser delinquencies in black neighborhoods. The Company contends that all of these complaints relate to rates and services, that jurisdiction of such complaints is vested in the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and that PHRC has no jurisdiction. We are informed that the home economics department is not conducted on premises of the Company but by telephone and visitation by Company employes to customers' homes. The PHRC does not contest these facts or contend that all of the activities complained of are not in the area of rates and services. It contends only that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et seq., confers jurisdiction in it. We have concluded that the PUC does have exclusive jurisdiction of rates and the services here in issue and that the Legislature has given no jurisdiction to PHRC in the premises.

Section 11(a) of the Act of March 31, 1937, P.L. 160, as amended, 66 P.S. § 462(a), confers upon the PUC the power and imposes upon it the duty to administer the Public Utility Law, Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1053, as amended, 66 P.S. § 1101 et seq. That

[ 5 Pa. Commw. Page 332]

    law pertinently requires utilities to file tariffs with the PUC. Section 302, 66 P.S. § 1142. Tariffs by Section 2(22), 66 P.S. § 1102(22) include not only rates but also all "rules, regulations, practices or contracts involving" rates. The Act defines rates and services as follows:

"'Rate' means every individual, or joint fare, toll, charge, rental, or other compensation whatsoever of any public utility, or contract carrier by motor vehicle, made, demanded, or received for any service within this act, offered, rendered, or furnished by such public utility, or contract carrier by motor vehicle, whether in currency, legal tender, or evidence thereof, in kind, in services or in any other medium or manner whatsoever, and whether received directly or indirectly, and any rules, regulations, ...


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