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Business litigation case involves dispute over smart meters

Legal disputes in Oregon and elsewhere do not always involve exclusively private business interests. There are often public agencies and municipal authorities that are involved in business litigation controversies. Public entities execute many contracts with private companies for services and products, opening the door for conflicts and disputes that sometimes make their way into the state and federal court system for resolution.

One recent example in Oregon of a dispute between a private entity and a public agency involves a lawsuit filed in state court against the Eugene Water & Electric Board. A manufacturer of smart meters, Sensus USA, sued EWEB and obtained a temporary restraining order stopping the agency from releasing the details of its contract with Sensus to its customers. The dispute arises regarding a lengthy contract in which EWEB agrees to pay Sensus $20.2 million for a smart meter system, which is also called an advanced metering infrastructure.

The agreement involves the sale and installation of thousands of smart meters that are tied into various software and hardware communications equipment. The meters are for recording customers' water and electric utility usages. The system eliminates the need for meter readers and instead communicates the information through the customer's home through to the utility via radio waves.

The specific dispute arose when some customers requested copies of the detailed contract that EWEB signed with Sensus. The meter company objected, claiming in part that its contract contained detailed proprietary information that would allow its competitors to engage in the bidding process by using the information to construct competitive bids. The court granted the temporary restraining order and set a hearing date for later in May. Generally, business litigation in Oregon regarding the release of proprietary information is a common issue that is raised.

Source: registerguard.com, "Smart meter firm disputes Eugene utility's decision to release contract details", Christian Hill, May 8, 2018

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