Frustration fuels calls for gas sale rules in Oman

Over-pricing and non-delivery of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders at consumers' doorstep have led to calls for the authorities to step in and monitor the suppliers.

  
29 September 2015
Muscat: Their orange open-top trucks are a common sight in Oman but the public is becoming frustrated with roving gas bottle suppliers, with customers saying they are being short-changed, ripped off, and that the industry should be regulated better.

Over-pricing and non-delivery of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders at consumers' doorstep have led to calls for the authorities to step in and monitor the suppliers.

In many areas of Muscat, suppliers are refusing to deliver LPG cylinders to customers' home, even when they are charging extra money to do so.

"We have been forced to collect cylinders from them where they are stationed. Citing trivial reasons, they are refusing to deliver it at the doorstep. It has become quite difficult. There are safety issues too. We have to transport the cylinder in our vehicles and fix it ourselves," residents in Al Khuwair said. A 22-kg gas cylinder is sold to suppliers for OMR1.9; however, consumers claim some are being sold by suppliers for OMR3 or even more, though its price should be OMR2.8 as fixed by the government.

"If they supply it at the doorstep, then OMR3 is okay. But nowadays, even when we buy it from the suppliers' place, they ask for OMR3," residents added.

Another customer in the Qantab area said: "The delivery man came after we assured him OMR5 for the gas cylinder, but even then he gave us a poor quality gas tap that leaked and then snapped off the moment we tried to tighten it. When we went to the Wadi Kabir gas distribution centre, we were told that it was of a poor quality and a counterfeit piece.

"Customers must ensure the safety and quality of the product being delivered to them for the amount they are being charged, after all this is a that gas we are talking about."

A plant manager from Muscat Gas told the Times of Oman that individuals are not supposed to transport cylinders in their vehicles. "There are safety issues involved in that. And as far as I know, it is prohibited by the government too," Marwan Daud, the Wadi Kabir plant manager at Muscat Gas, said.

Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said there is no clear regulation that forces gas cylinder suppliers to deliver the cylinders at the customers' doorstep.

"The ministry can only regulate the process of obtaining the licence and method of collecting a cylinder from the distributor. Once the supplier takes the delivery, we don't have any control in their dealings with the customers," said the source.

He added that the supplier might accept to deliver the cylinders at the doorstep for an extra charge.

On the other hand, a source at the Muscat Municipality said the body could not play any role in managing the pricing.

"We have a number of regulations in place on the vehicle used to transfer the cylinders, including its colour and all," said the source.

"If a supplier is stationing his vehicle in public places to sell cylinders, violating the rules, then we can book them. Such acts will be penalized even though the municipality is quite flexible with such issues," said the source.

According to Muscat Gas, around 8,000 cylinders are sold in Muscat per day by two main companies, including theirs.

Meanwhile, an official from the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA) said there is no big risk in transporting a gas cylinder in a private vehicle.

"The authority has passed a regulation only for the trucks, which are transporting gas cylinders, because they are carrying a number of gas cylinders. However, transporting one or two gas cylinders in a private vehicle is not a big issue," said the official.

While talking about gas cylinder-related fire accidents, the official said disregard to safety measures is the main cause for such accidents. "Most fire accidents happen only because the consumer has neglected the safety measures," said the official.

New valves

The official also added that the authority had entrusted the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to study the introduction of new gas valves in the market.

"The new valve will be quite easier and safer because with the click of a button, the consumer will be able to fix it by himself," said the official, adding that the new valve is safer as it has an automatic lock that stops gas flow when there is a leak.

© Times of Oman 2015