Dept to take steps on gas suppliers

2011-11-23 00:00

WHILE certain businesses in Pietermaritzburg continue to contravene government regulation by over-charging consumers for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the Department of Energy said yesterday that it will take a practical approach to policing these so-called offenders, given that the supply of LPG remains tight.

Makhosini Mngomezulu of the Department of Energy in KZN told The Witness yesterday that the market is characterised by “abnormal circumstances” that force businesses to source LPG at extra cost, prompting them to charge above the gazetted rate (in Pietermaritzburg) of R20,12 per kg, including VAT.

He said that they remain committed to policing businesses that “jump on the bandwagon” and charge above the rate despite sourcing LPG through normal channels.

A first warning will be followed by a charge being laid by the department in the event of a second offence being detected. Mngomezulu said that hefty fines or a prison sentence of up to 10 years can be meted out to offenders.

The issue came under the spotlight yet again following a complaint from a local resident who alleged that a city business was charging above the gazetted rate.

“We have received complaints about this issue. However, these are abnormal circumstances as the supply of gas is limited. Businesses can argue that the pricing level [set by the government on a monthly basis] was based on normal supply levels. The court may decide to take this view into consideration.”

Mngomezulu said that they will investigate and verify whether businesses that are the subject of complaints have in fact, sourced LPG through extraordinary channels that increase the cost of LPG.

According to a sales representative at Gas and General at Greyling Street, Robin Volmink, there are many factors influencing the price of LPG. He said that scarcity in recent months is one of them.

Volmink said the fire that broke-out at an Engen refinery in Durban and maintenance of production facilities left many suppliers with no gas.

“Then gas had to be imported and apparently shipping was expensive …” he said.

He said they sell one kilogram of gas for R22,25.

Five kilograms of LPG goes for R111,15 while a nine kilogram is R181,40.

Volmink said the machine that pumps gas is worth about R40 000 and needs to be maintained, while the price of Cadac cylinders, intensive labour and other dynamics are issues that customers need to be aware of.

“We’re not trying to rip them off,” he added.

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