2020 Georgia Code
Title 46 - Public Utilities and Public Transportation
Chapter 8 - Railroad Companies
Article 2 - Powers and Duties of Commission as to Railroad Companies Generally
§ 46-8-20. Exclusive Power of Commission to Determine Just and Reasonable Rates and Charges; Establishing Rates and Tariffs Generally; Locating of Depots and Construction of Freight and Passenger Buildings

Universal Citation: GA Code § 46-8-20 (2020)
  1. The power to determine what are just and reasonable rates and charges is vested exclusively in the commission.
  2. The commission:
    1. Shall make reasonable and just rates of freight and passenger tariffs, such rates to be observed by all railroad companies doing business in this state;
    2. Shall make reasonable and just rules and regulations as to charges at any and all points for the necessary handling and delivering of freights, such rules and regulations to be observed by all railroad companies doing business in this state;
    3. Shall make such just and reasonable rules and regulations as may be necessary for preventing unjust discrimination in the transportation of freight and passengers on the railroads in this state;
    4. Shall have the power to make, for all connecting railroads doing business in this state, just and reasonable joint rates as to all traffic or business passing from one of those railroads to another, provided that before applying joint rates to railroads that are not under the management and control of a single company, the commission shall give 30 days' notice to the railroads of the joint rate contemplated and of the manner in which it proposes to divide the rate between the railroads, and shall accord a hearing to any company desiring to object to the rates or the manner of their division;
    5. Shall make reasonable and just rates for the use of railroad cars, no matter by whom owned or carried, carrying any kind of freight and passengers on the railroads; and
    6. Shall make just and reasonable rules and regulations to prevent the giving or paying of any rebate or bonus, directly or indirectly, and to prevent the misleading or deceiving of the public in any manner as to the real rates charged for freight and passengers.
  3. The commission shall have full power, by rule and regulation, to designate and fix the difference in rates of freight and passenger transportation to be allowed for long and short distances on the same or different railroads and to ascertain what shall be the limits of long and short distances.
  4. The commission shall have the power to require the location of such depots and the construction of such freight and passenger buildings as the condition of the railroad, the safety of freight, and the public comfort and convenience may require, upon the giving to such railroad company to be affected thereby the same notice as is provided in paragraph (4) of subsection (b) of this Code section.

(Ga. L. 1878-79, p. 125, § 5; Code 1882, § 719e; Ga. L. 1889, p. 131, § 1; Civil Code 1895, § 2189; Ga. L. 1907, p. 72, § 5; Civil Code 1910, § 2630; Code 1933, § 93-309.)

Cross references.

- Authority of General Assembly regarding regulation of public utility rates, Ga. Const. 1983, Art. III, Sec. VI, Para. V.

Prohibition against rebates, Ga. Const. 1983, Art. III, Sec. VI, Para. V.

Further provisions regarding establishment, revision, etc., of rates and charges for railroad transportation, § 46-9-20 et seq.

Law reviews.

- For comment on Georgia Power Co. v. Allied Chem. Corp., 233 Ga. 558, 212 S.E.2d 628 (1975), see 27 Mercer L. Rev. 341 (1975).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

ANALYSIS

  • General Consideration
  • Rate-making

General Consideration

Constitutionality of amendment.

- Georgia Laws 1907, p. 72 does not offend the Constitution of Georgia. Wadley S. Ry. v. State, 137 Ga. 497, 73 S.E. 741 (1912), aff'd, 235 U.S. 651, 35 S. Ct. 214, 59 L. Ed. 405 (1914).

Nature of commission.

- The Railroad Commission (now Public Service Commission) is an administrative, and not a legislative, body. It has only such powers as the legislature has expressly, or by fair implication, conferred upon it. Southern Ry. v. Melton, 133 Ga. 277, 65 S.E. 665 (1909); Zuber v. Southern Ry., 9 Ga. App. 539, 71 S.E. 937 (1911).

Powers of commission in general.

- Public Service Commission has only such powers as are granted to it by statute. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n v. Atlanta Gas Light Co., 205 Ga. 863, 55 S.E.2d 618 (1949).

Public Service Commission has power to regulate rates and practices of public utilities. Gas Light Co. v. Georgia Power Co., 440 F.2d 1135 (5th Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 1062, 92 S. Ct. 732, 30 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1972).

Commission has power to prevent unjust discrimination in handling of freight.

- The commission has power to promulgate a rule requiring railroad companies, in the conduct of their intrastate business, to afford to all persons equal facilities in the transportation and delivery of freight, without unjust discrimination against any. Augusta Brokerage Co. v. Central of Ga. Ry., 121 Ga. 48, 48 S.E. 714 (1904); Southern Ry. v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 218 Ga. 157, 127 S.E.2d 12 (1962).

Commission may declare unlawful practice of dispensing with prepayment of charges.

- Under the power given by former Civil Code 1910, § 2630 (see O.C.G.A. § 46-8-20) it was competent for the commission to declare as an unlawful discrimination a course of conduct whereby a railroad company, connecting with other railroad companies at each of its termini, which converge to a common point, affording a choice of routes from the common point to stations on its own line, received from one of its connections freights destined to points on its own line without requiring repayment of the earned charges of the favored carrier, and declined to receive from the connecting carrier at the other terminus freight destined to points on its own line without prepayment of the freight charges earned by that connecting carrier, where the conditions were substantially similar, and the effect of the course of conduct was to seriously curtail competition in rates and service to the patrons on its own line. Wadley S. Ry. v. State, 137 Ga. 497, 73 S.E. 741 (1912), aff'd, 235 U.S. 651, 35 S. Ct. 214, 59 L. Ed. 405 (1914).

Authority of carrier to make regulations must yield to state.

- Construing former Ga. Civil Code 1910, §§ 2729, 2750, 2630 et seq., and 2662 et seq. (see O.C.G.A. §§ 46-2-21,46-8-20,46-9-130, and46-9-131), it was evident that the power of a common carrier to make reasonable regulations must yield where regulations have been made by authority of the state, unless they are invalid. Railroad Comm'n v. Louisville & N.R.R., 140 Ga. 817, 80 S.E. 327, 1915E L.R.A. 902, 1915A Ann. Cas. 1018 (1913).

Distinction between "transportation" and "switching" or "transfer" service.

- The test of distinction between "transportation" service relative to loaned freight-cars for which a railway company can lawfully charge tonnage rates, and "switching" or "transfer" service for which it was restricted to a fixed charge per car under former Civil Code 1895, § 2189 (see O.C.G.A. § 46-8-20), was not whether the movement of the cars involved the use of a portion of the company's main line, or that of another, for there may be a transportation service over one or more spur-tracks of the same company, if the contract of affreightment required no movement over other tracks or lines of railway; whereas a switching or transfer service was one which preceded or followed a transportation service, and applied only to a shipment on which legal freight charges have already been earned, or were to be earned. Dixon v. Central of Ga. Ry., 110 Ga. 173, 35 S.E. 369 (1900).

Venue upon failure to erect depot.

- If a railroad company of this state refused to comply with an order passed by the Commissioners, requiring it to erect a depot building as empowered by former Civil Code 1895, § 2189 (see O.C.G.A. § 46-8-20), such refusal, in contemplation of law, was at the company's principal office, or place of business, and consequently controlled the venue. Central of Ga. Ry. v. State, 104 Ga. 831, 31 S.E. 531, 42 L.R.A. 518 (1898).

Cited in Brown v. Georgia C. & N. Ry., 119 Ga. 88, 46 S.E. 71 (1903); Central of Ga. Ry. v. Georgia R.R. Comm'n, 215 F. 421 (N.D. Ga. 1914); Wight v. Pelham & H.R.R., 18 Ga. App. 195, 89 S.E. 176 (1916); Henry Talmadge & Co. v. Seaboard Air Line Ry., 170 Ga. 225, 152 S.E. 243 (1930); Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 229 Ga. 659, 193 S.E.2d 835 (1972).

Rate-making

Commission's exclusive power to make intrastate rates.

- Power to make intrastate rates is exclusive prerogative of Public Service Commission. Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Lumberman's Co., 168 Ga. 851, 149 S.E. 128 (1929).

Under former Civil Code 1910, § 2630 (see O.C.G.A. § 46-8-20) the commission had the power to determine what are just and reasonable rates and charges for transportation of passengers of each of the railroads doing business in this state. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n v. Atlanta & W.P.R.R., 164 Ga. 822, 139 S.E. 725 (1927).

What matters to be considered in rate-making.

- What is just and reasonable to be charged, what is actuarially sound, what limitations of liability are necessary to reach this result, are matters which need to be taken into account in the determination of public utility rates, just as there are proper actuarial considerations in fixing insurance premiums. Southern Bell Tel. & Tel Co. v. Invenchek, Inc., 130 Ga. App. 798, 204 S.E.2d 457 (1974).

Meaning of term "joint rate."

- A "joint rate" under former Civil Code 1895, § 2189 (see O.C.G.A. § 46-8-20) was one prescribed to be charged for the transportation of goods or passengers over the connecting lines of two or more railroads, and to be divided among them for the service rendered by each respectively. Hill v. Wadley S. Ry., 128 Ga. 705, 57 S.E. 795 (1907).

No fixed and arbitrary rule for making of joint rate.

- There was no fixed and arbitrary rule for making of joint rate. It was often done by deducting some prescribed percent from each of the local rates and adding together the two rates thus reduced; but this was not the only possible method of fixing a rate which will fall within the term, "joint rate," as used in former Civil Code 1895, § 2189 (see O.C.G.A. § 46-8-20). Hill v. Wadley S. Ry., 128 Ga. 705, 57 S.E. 795 (1907).

No retroactive application of rates.

- A rate is made to operate in the future and cannot be made to apply retroactively. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n v. Atlanta Gas Light Co., 205 Ga. 863, 55 S.E.2d 618 (1949).

Action by consumer seeking to enjoin rate collection.

- For decision holding that consumer had no standing to seek to enjoin collection of rates set by order of Public Service Commission on the ground that the rates were unreasonably high, prior to revision of Ga. L. 1965, p. 283, UU 2-4 (see O.C.G.A. § 50-13-2) by Ga. L. 1975, p. 404, see Georgia Power Co. v. Allied Chem. Corp., 233 Ga. 558, 212 S.E.2d 628 (1975), commented on in 27 Mercer L. Rev. 341 (1975).

Courts have no power to make rates.

- Making and controlling utility rates is a legislative function delegated to a quasi-legislative body and the courts have no power to control and make such rates. DeKalb County v. Southern Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., 358 F. Supp. 498 (N.D. Ga. 1972), aff'd, 478 F.2d 700 (5th Cir. 1973).

Customers lack property interest in utility rate increases.

- Utility customers have no sufficient property interest in given utility rate increase to invoke procedural protections of due process clause of U.S. Const., Amend. 14. Georgia Power Project v. Georgia Power Co., 409 F. Supp. 332 (N.D. Ga. 1975).

Utility customers have no vested rights in fixed utility rates. Georgia Power Project v. Georgia Power Co., 409 F. Supp. 332 (N.D. Ga. 1975).

Entitlement to lower rate must be shown to challenge increase on constitutional grounds.

- Utility customers must show they have a legal entitlement to or a vested right in the utility rates being charged before any proposed increase, before they can claim any property rights protected by the United States Constitution. Georgia Power Project v. Georgia Power Co., 409 F. Supp. 332 (N.D. Ga. 1975).

Courts can not fix telephone rates.

- Function of making telephone rates is legislative in nature and rates cannot be fixed by courts. Southern Bell Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 203 Ga. 832, 49 S.E.2d 38 (1948).

Liability for damages for interrupted telephone service.

- Reasonable limitation of liability for damages for interrupted telephone service may be considered part of telephone rate-making function. Southern Bell Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Invenchek, Inc., 130 Ga. App. 798, 204 S.E.2d 457 (1974).

OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Federal preemption of railroads in interstate commerce.

- As to railroads which are in interstate commerce, commission is preempted from imposing any safety regulations concerning any subject over which federal government has an existing regulation. 1980 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 80-36.

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 64 Am. Jur. 2d, Public Utilities, § 166 et seq.

C.J.S.

- 73B C.J.S., Public Utilities, §§ 15, 18-22, 34, 36-41, 45-49, 53-55, 57.

ALR.

- Franchise provisions for free or reduced rates of public service corporations as within constitutional or statutory provision prohibiting discrimination, 10 A.L.R. 504; 15 A.L.R. 1200.

Right of electrical company to discriminate against a concern which desires service for resale, 12 A.L.R. 327; 112 A.L.R. 773.

Discrimination by public utility company in respect of extension of credit, 12 A.L.R. 964.

Franchise provision for free or reduced rates by public service corporation as within constitutional or statutory provision prohibiting discrimination, 15 A.L.R. 1200.

Right of public utility to discontinue one of several different kinds of service, 21 A.L.R. 578.

Power of state to require interstate carrier to make track connections with other roads, 22 A.L.R. 1078.

Power of Public Service Commission to increase franchise rates, 28 A.L.R. 587; 29 A.L.R. 356.

Service contract by public utility in consideration of conveyance of property by individual or private corporations as affected by public utility acts, 41 A.L.R. 257.

Right to fix new rate for public utility where court sets aside rate fixed by commission as confiscatory, 57 A.L.R. 146.

Right to make charge for telephone or other public utility service in excess of that fixed by public utility, 73 A.L.R. 1194.

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