Petrol price hike, zoning creates havoc in PMB

2008-07-02 00:00

Massive confusion surrounds the petrol price increase, with retailers and consumers unsure of what the proper price should be.

While most petrol stations in the city yesterday displayed R10,40 as the price at the pump, The Witness found that not all petrol stations knew what to charge.

The confusion allegedly arises from the Mineral and Energy Affairs Department reversing a decision to increase the margins for oil companies, and the zoning of different areas in the coastal category with different prices.

The Witness also incorrectly stated the price yesterday as R10,50 per litre, as stated by the department’s website. The price of unleaded petrol is actually R10,40 in the greater Pietermaritzburg area.

A petrol station owner who was charging R10,49 per litre in the city yesterday, said he was notified by BP

that the new price for the zone he falls under would be R10,47. “I have the proof of the e-mails and smss. From the time the [department] changed the price, everything went haywire. This was not done intentionally and it was not my fault. There have never been zone issues before.”

The man said information he was given by the petrol industry suggested that the price could change yet again, but The Witness was unable to confirm this.

Department spokesman Sputnik Ratau said the department fielded many calls yesterday from confused people. He defended the zoning method as a “better way to do it”.

“That’s how the pricing is determined. It was worked out between government and the industry in consultation together.”

Ratau said anyone charging more than the specified price in a zone is breaking the law. “They can only charge what the zone allows them to.”

Also, Camperdown, Cato Ridge and Hammarsdale petrol is 10 cents more expensive than fuel bought in Pietermaritzburg or Durban, according to the new prices.

Liz Fortmann, owner of Camperdown Motors, said yesterday that previously the difference between what she charged and what the cities charged was one cent.

“But now it’s 10 cents. How does this zoning work? People ask why we charge more for petrol when we are closer to the coast than Pietermaritzburg. There is huge confusion.”

Asked to comment on the reason for the big price difference, Ratau said that this issue has arisen all over the country, but he was unsure of the reasoning behind it.

“The government and wholesalers must have agreed on it.” He doubted whether people would rather fill up in the cities, he said. “The locals will always need petrol.”

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