Argentina's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the government must hold public hearings before cutting energy subsidies and hiking residential utility rates.
Since he was elected last November, Argentine President Mauricio Macri has slashed natural gas subsidies early in his term. As a consequence, heating bills during a particularly cold Southern Hemisphere winter soared, prompting public protests.
"The increase in utility prices cannot be validly implemented without public hearings on the issue," the court said in a unanimous decision.
The government acted in violation “of the 24,076 law on natural gas which says hearings are needed to secure that the constitutional right to information, consultation and participation for users and consumers is respected,” the four judges said in a statement.
The court ruling will restore residential gas prices back to what they were in March, before the government increased prices and eliminated subsidies.
In recent months, Argentine households have experienced a spike in gas prices of up to 400 percent, which came as part of a broader campaign to increase the price of basic utilities, including increases in the cost of electricity by up to 700 percent.
The government led-initiative to eliminate energy subsidies prompted series of lawsuits that eventually reached the high court.
The court ruling now requires the Macri administration to hold public comment sessions before it implements future increases on residential gas rates.