LPG Cylinders: Consumers suffer as govt fails to enforce prices
People are having to pay higher than the prices fixed by the regulator for buying Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) because of non-compliance by sellers.
For a 12kg cylinder, retailers are charging Tk 1,050-1,100, which is Tk 150-200, around 23 percent, higher than the price set by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), many consumers said.
On June 30, the commission set Tk 891 as the retail price for a 12kg LPG cylinder for the month of July to ensure a win-win situation for both consumers and marketers, as the demand for the fuel has been growing over the last decade.
Currently, LPG use stands at over 12 lakh tonnes, up from 47,000 tonnes in 2009, said industry stakeholders.
At the moment, more than four lakh consumers use LPG by buying from the market. And until recently, consumers bought import-based LPG at prices determined by market players.
Since April, the BERC started fixing prices, which were below the rates offered by the marketers.
Consumers, however, said they are having to pay extra to get LPG cylinders as importers, dealers and retailers have not been complying with the BERC rates, adding that the commission failed to implement its price in the market.
At least three dozen consumers from different parts of the country said they were yet to buy LPG at the price fixed by the commission.
They also said BERC was just doing its routine work and setting the price rate, while importers, dealers and retailers are taking advantage of its inactivity, and charging additional money from helpless people during the Covid-19 crisis.
Seeking anonymity, a teacher of a non-MPO secondary school, said recently he bought a 12kg LPG cylinder at Tk 1,050. "I know the government-fixed rate is Tk 891. But I was compelled to pay an additional Tk 209.
"There is a regulatory body but it has completely failed to play its due role. Is there no one else to see the injustice?" the teacher, who has not been getting his salary for the last one year due to closure of his school during the pandemic, said.
Abul Kalam, another consumer, said, "If the regulatory commission cannot implement the price rate, then why would they take the responsibility to fix it? This is ridiculous."
Barkat Ali said he cannot afford the soaring prices of daily essentials, adding that he too had to buy an LPG cylinder at Tk 1,050 from a retail shop in Dhaka's Dohar upazila.
Speaking to this correspondent, a retailer in Dohar said he bought a 12kg cylinder from a Jamuna LPG dealer in the upazila's Maghula Bazar at Tk 970 and was selling it at Tk 1,050.
"We know the government-set rate but what should we do if the dealers charge more money than the stipulated price," he said, requesting anonymity.
Contacted, Azad, a dealer of Jamuna LP Gas in Maghula Bazar, cut the call just after hearing the questions related to the price.
Ghulam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said it is seen that no one is abiding by the prices set by the BERC.
The BERC has the power to take legal action to enforce the price of LPG and it also has the power to take action against companies who are not complying, said Rahman, also the former BERC chairman.
Mohammad Maqbul-E-Elahi Chowdhury, member (gas) of the BERC, said the price was somewhat implemented initially, but now traders are not abiding by it.
"We have written to the authorities concerned, including the deputy commissioners, through the ministry concerned, seeking their help in implementing the price. But we are not getting any cooperation for that either," he added.
He said it was not possible to implement the price without cooperation of all -- traders, consumers, government agencies and the media.
Azam J Chowdhury, president of the LPG Operators' Association of Bangladesh, said the BERC has not fixed the price logically.
For example, the BERC has fixed Tk 20 as transportation cost for dealers, which actually costs at least Tk 50, he said, adding that it is not possible to implement the prices by harassing sellers and dealers. The commission will have to determine the price logically first.
He said they will sit with the stakeholders concerned, including the BERC, to settle the issue soon.