From staff reports

AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. will not compensate customers whose appliances or other equipment were damaged in a massive power outage Aug. 18, which was highlighted by low voltage and fluctuating lights.

Company spokeswoman Carey Sullivan said SWEPCO had received about 60 residential claims from people who had equipment damaged during the outage, which the utility said was caused by an overload on the Texas grid that resulted from a combination of vegetation coming into contact with power lines, heat and high power use.

“We are denying the claims,” she said. “We work every day to provide reliable power for our customers. We can’t guarantee our service will be free of outages or fluctuations.”

Under the company’s general terms of conditions and service, SWEPCO is not liable for damages from outages and voltage fluctuations.

“This is similar to other utilities in Texas,” she said, and part of public policy decision that has been in place a long time. Otherwise the costs of claims would be born by other customers, “socializing” the cost of claims, she said.

She said the limitation of liability has been upheld by the Texas Supreme Court.

SWEPCO began calling customers Thursday to inform them their claims were denied. Follow-up letters will be sent as well. People with questions may call (888) 216-3523.

Sullivan said SWEPCO expects it will receive claims from businesses as well, and those claims also would be denied.

When the outage occurred, SWEPCO directed customers to turn off their air conditioners and unplug equipment. Sullivan said people also may take steps to protect equipment from future issues by installing whole house surge protectors, or flipping the breaker to turn off a home’s power during such incidents. Homeowners could talk to an electrician for suggestions, she said.