Mothithang and Phuntsholing BOD fined Nu 36,775 for violations
A joint investigation by the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), Department of Trade and Regional Trade and Industry Office (RTIO) found underweight LPG cylinders, leaking cylinders, lack of proper weighing machine and careless handling of LPG cylinders by staff in the Mothithang BOD.
The team found that in around two truckloads of 756 cylinders around 51 cylinders were underweight.
The team also came across six cylinders with leakages though the depot management said that out of around 252 cylinders in every truckload there would be at least ten cylinders with leakages, which cannot be detected physically unless the regulator is inserted in.
Though the management there said there is a system to replace leaky cylinders found by customers it was found that the BOD itself did not have any proactive measures to detect leakages in cylinders before giving them to clients.
The weighing machine at the Mothithang BOD was not found to be up to the mark according to officials from the Bhutan Standards Bureau and so another certified machine had to be borrowed to weigh the cylinders.
A total fine of Nu 36,775 was levied in total. Of this Nu 26,775 was levied on the BOD Phuntsholing for the 51 underweight cylinders as per the Consumer Protection Act 2012 coming to Nu 525 per cylinder.
A Nu 10,000 fine was levied on the Mothithang BOD for throwing cylinders, not having a certified weighing scale and supplying cylinders without weighing them to customers under the Bhutan Retail Trade Rules and Regulations 2006.
Subsequent violations would attract penalties and fines in line with the Consumer Protection Act 2012.
All underweight and leaky cylinders were sent back to the dealers head office in Phuntsholing and were disallowed for distribution.
More importantly the investigation has come up with a seven point recommended action plan applicable to all LPG dealers across the country to prevent the above cases.
It says that all dealers should be mandated to keep certified weighing machines at all LPG depots and deliver correct quantity to the customers as per the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations. The dealers have to weigh the LPG cylinders once before dispatching it from their main supply location in Phuntsholing to their outlets and once before giving it to customers.
The management has to procure leak detecting machines and ensure that leaky cylinders are screened out or rejected at source before supplying them to retail locations.
Dealers cannot throw cylinders and they should procure proper hydraulic lifting machinery and have proper site development to enable easy loading and unloading of cylinders.
A helpline should be established to respond to consumer grievances. Faulty cylinders should not only be replaced promptly but the transportation costs borne by the customer also has to be refunded by the management.
The Department of Trade and RTIO should mandate all dealers to replace the plastic seals with aluminum seals to ensure security and resistance during handling of cylinders.
They will also routinely monitor LPG outlets and penalize for non-compliance.
A vigorous public awareness campaign on consumer rights and responsibilities including the mandate and existence of the OCP is recommended to be launched immediately along with related issues and the OCP Act 2012 and its rules.
The OCP is to develop safety standards and measures or guidelines on the storage, handling, and dispending of LPG at retail outlets.
The report along with the recommendations has been submitted to the MoEA Minister and the Prime Minister for additional decision on the action plan.
The investigation was launched based on a social media complaint by the Editor of the paper on two LPG cylinders of which one was leaky and the other was underweight. The post saw widespread response from other people across the country recounting similar experiences after which the government sprung into action based on the orders of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Economic Affairs.