18L LP Gas Cylinder an Eyewash?
By Thameenah Razeek
The newly released 18-litre hybrid gas cylinder that has been the talk of the town for more than a week has caught everyone’s attention despite the pandemic. At a time when the prices of essential items have risen and contaminated coconut oil are being sold in the market, the introduction of a new gas cylinder alarmed the people more than anything.
The State-owned subsidiary, Litro Gas Lanka (LGL) introduced a new type of domestic gas cylinder to the market in the wake of the Government not approving companies’ demands over several months to increase the price of gas as prices in the world market had increased.
The capacity of the new cylinder is given in litres instead of kilograms.
Chairman of the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection (NMCRP) Ranjith Vithanage dropped a bombshell regarding the new gas cylinder last week and brought to light that consumers will have to pay an extra Rs. 32.52 per kilo of gas for LGL’s new hybrid gas cylinder.
LGL introduced an 18-litre Premium Hybrid Cylinder to the market at a price of Rs 1,395. The weight of the newly introduced product measures 9.18Kg (18L). The regular 12.5Kg gas cylinder sold by LGL is priced at Rs 1,493.
Although the product has been reduced by about Rs 100, consumers say that the weight has been reduced by 3Kg.
Explaining the discrepancy, Withanage noted that according to the current 12.5Kg domestic gas cylinder, the price of a kilogram of gas is
Rs 119.44. However, the consumer will have to pay Rs. 151.96 extra per kilo of gas at the price of a new 9.18Kg cylinder.
What has actually happened?
LGL has regularly sold 12.5Kg cylinders with a quantity of 25L. But the latest product sold at Rs 1,395 reduces the quantity to 18L in the same 12.5Kg cylinder.
The weight is not marked on the new cylinder, indicating that the product is nothing other than the old 12.5Kg cylinder with the reduced quantity of gas.
Action Against the Company
The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) took steps to call for a report on the introduction of a new domestic gas cylinder to the market by LGL without the permission of the CAA.
A spokesman for CAA said that steps have been taken to inform the company about this. Although any company is permitted to release a new product to the market, the prescribed weight of the product must be specified.
However, the CAA said in defence that it was problematic that the capacity of the new gas cylinder introduced by the company was specified in litres instead of kilograms.
Due to this, the CAA instructed to submit a report detailing the relevant information and its officials have also taken samples of the new product. Further action will be taken after conducting investigations in this regard.
Before the report came out, the Government was in a hurry and was making arbitrarily hasty decisions about the cylinder and its circulation. In this line, the Government made two contradicting statements in two different circumstances regarding the LP Gas that has been released to the market without proper State approval.
Initially when the issue was brought up, State Ministry of Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection Lasantha Alagiyawanna after acknowledging that there has been a reduction in the quantity of gas per Kg compared to the reduction in the price of a gas cylinder.
Therefore, the Minister said that LGL had been informed through the CAA that the weight of the relevant cylinder should also be mentioned instead of litres, adding that the consumer could be confused by introducing a new cylinder with the same colour as the previously existing 12.5Kg cylinders.
The Minister also said that the new gas cylinder has caused a financial loss to the consumer. Also, the State Ministry of Public Cooperative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection later approved the release of the 18L Premium Hybrid Cylinder introduced by Litro Gas Lanka to the customer under certain conditions.
A spokesperson to the Ministry said, the gas company has also secured the launch of a 12.5 kg standard gas cylinder for daily needs without any shortage. Accordingly, steps have been taken to supply the regular 12.5 Kg gas cylinder at a price of Rs. 1,493 through the relevant agents at the discretion of the customer. He noted if the 18L Premium Hybrid Cylinder is introduced to the market the company should fulfil in maintaining the efficiency of the new product, ensuring the amount and price of gas in the cylinder and be able to separate 18L cylinders from the ones currently in the market.
When asked how the new cylinders should be different, the spokesperson noted that the 18L cylinder should be at least different by colour. Accordingly, the State Ministry requests consumers to call the 1977 helpline if they are unable to purchase an ordinary 12.5 Kg gas cylinder from the market.
However, the Executive Director of CAA, Thushan Gunawardena stated that the relevant gas company has been instructed to remove this stock of new gas cylinders from the market immediately. He said, the company had been informed in writing that the new cylinders should be removed so that there would be no shortage of gas in the market. Gunawardena further told the Media that a case could be filed against LGL and that the top management of the company should be held responsible.
Public deceived by the new gas cylinder
Consumers say that they have been deceived by LGL’s new 18L gas cylinder. Although the product has been reduced by about Rs 100, consumers say that the weight has been reduced by 3Kg. “They can sell this to a fool. A person who knows their calculations will not be satisfied,” one consumer said.
The Association of Self-Employed Individuals filed a complaint with the CID stating that Rs. 406 is being defrauded through the new product.
“They are harming the people based on the whims of these corrupt individuals. Therefore, we filed a complaint against it,” the association’s convenor Pradeep Charles noted.
Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry issued a new concessionary tax rate for LP gas from 20 April. The concessionary Ports and Airport Development Levy for LP gas previously stood at 7.5 per cent.
The new rate allows the rate to stand at either 7.5 per cent or Rs 2,000 per metric tonne, whichever is lowest. This would be until LP gas prices reach USD 325 per metric tonne.
The CAA was flooded with complaints from dealers that only the new gas cylinder is released to the market by LGL. It was reported that CAA received complaints from dealers that Litro Gas is only releasing the 18L new gas cylinders to the market.
Litro Gas Lanka Statement
LGL in a statement assured there was no shortage of LP gas in the country in response to rumours of a gas shortage. The statement stated that “Accordingly, the Litro Gas Premium Hybrid an 18-litre cylinder was introduced to the market as a product that meets international standards. The new product delivers a higher level of efficiency and delivers better energy utilisation, assuring easier handling and storage. This product contains 18l of LPG, sufficient for a family of four for a month and is priced at Rs. 1,395. Our standard regular cylinders are also available without a shortage in the market,”
They also said, “We regret to note that those with vested interests are spreading false information that there is a shortage of gas in the country. As the national LPG provider, we categorically affirm that there is absolutely no shortage of gas in the country, with LPG made available to customers via over 14,000 sales channels throughout the island”.