The California Public Utilities Commission has fined Southern California Edison $146 million for falsifying customer satisfaction surveys, a lower fine than levied last year.

The PUC's unanimous decision was in response to Edison's appeal of an administrative law judge's original $200 million penalty in late 2007.

The PUC, which announced the revised penalty late Thursday, also ordered Edison to refund nearly $81 million to customers. Customers paid that amount over several years in their utility bills for performance bonuses; the utility could collect extra money if customer surveys showed the utility was performing well.

However, SoCal Edison, a subsidiary of Rosemead-based Edison International, admitted in 2004 that some employees had falsified health, safety and customer satisfaction data in the surveys from 1997 to 2003. The utility said it had taken measures to prevent the abuses from resurfacing.

The Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based consumer group, applauded the PUC's decision to let the bulk of the penalty stand.

"Customers paid for Edison's lies," said TURN Executive Director Mark Toney in a statement. "The money that Edison will be refunding is money that belongs to customers and was taken from them illegally. "

Edison shares were up 34 cents, or less than one percent, to $40.14 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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