Protecting petroleum consumers; what you need to know

A total of 57 fuel filling stations in Accra have been fined for among others, delivering fuel below the levels of what consumers purchase[/caption] Balancing the needs of petroleum consumers and petroleum service providers is very crucial to the National Petroleum Authority’s operations. Section 2(f) of the NPA Act 2005 (Act 691) mandates the Authority to monitor the standards of performance and quality of service provision rendered by the petroleum service providers (PSPs) to the consumer. As a regulator of the petroleum downstream industry,  the NPA is concerned about the growing number of calls by consumers concerning poor quality fuel and inaccurate quantity of fuel dispensed at the pumps at various stations. In order to ensure sanity in the sale and marketing of petroleum products, the NPA has put in place programmes such as the Petroleum Product Marking Scheme (PPMS), Bulk Road Vehicle Tracking System (BRV), Inspection and Monitoring and Outreach Programmes. PPMS The programme is to ensure that the quality of products is devoid of adulteration and meet the required specification as is loaded from the fuel depots to retail outlets nationwide. It provides the petroleum consumer quality assurance and offenders are duly sanctioned in accordance with LI 2187. BRV Traccking System The project is to enable the Authority to view in real time the actual volumes loaded at each depot and discharged at each retail outlet, LPG filling plant and Bulk customer supply points by the BRVs across the country. It is evident that almost everything monitored by a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking system can work to reduce costs, provide information and alert on any discrepancies concerned with movement of the systems being monitored; trucks in this case. Inspection and Monitoring Sales of petroleum products such as petrol, diesel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and kerosene are mostly carried out at the retail stations throughout the country. These products are normally patronized by vehicle users (petrol and diesel) and domestic users (kerosene and LPG) across the length and breadth of the country. The service providers are expected to offer services that meet the needs of consumers, and the Authority is required to ensure that the products offered to the consumers are of the right quality and quantity. The Authority does this through inspection and monitoring of the activities of the petroleum services providers. An average of three inspections and monitoring at the over 3,052 retail outlets are undertaken by the Authority throughout the country each year. There are two kinds of inspections carried out by the NPA, the Programme inspection and Random inspection where inspections of the retail outlets are carried out to ensure that their operations conform to the Authority’s standard of performance. The OMCs are given scheduled inspection dates and checklists which allow them to do their own self compliance tests before visits by the Authority. It also carries out on the spot checks to make sure that the consumer gets the right quality and quantity of petroleum products. It also does the monitoring of maximum indicative ex-pump prices of petroleum products set by the Oil Marketing Companies to ensure consumers are not cheated at the dispensing outlet.

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10-Litre Measuring Can The quantity of products offered for sale at the pump is assessed to ensure that the consumer is not cheated. In doing so, the NPA in collaboration with the Ghana Standard Authority developed and introduced the 10-litre measuring Can (Ntease kuruwa) to guide consumers at retail outlets and to give consumers the ability to verify the accuracy of dispensing pumps when they are in doubt. Dialogue between consumers and forecourt attendants at filling station often includes the controversial subject “Your pump has cheated me”, “Your pump is delivering below level” etc… The consumer might be right, the fuel pump must deliver the right volume or level because “levels matter” and the consumer deserves value for money. To resolve this misunderstanding between the fuel station and the consumer, the Ghana Standards Board now GSA and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) jointly launched the 10-Litre measuring can as an instrument to assist consumers ascertain the right volume of fuel being dispensed by the pump. The 10-Litre can is used to determine whether a particular pump is delivering below 1-Litre or above 1-Litre How the 10-litre can works Per regulations by National Petroleum Authority, this instrument must be found at all filling stations and must be available to the consumer on demand to determine the accurate delivery of the pump. 10 litres of fuel is dispensed into the Can. Which fills the Can up to the funnel (neck) and displays in the crystal tube. The crystal tube is marked/ calibrated +0.5 upwards and -0.5 below. This calibration is known as the tolerance level. [caption id="attachment_60982" align="aligncenter" width="564"] If the fuel measures +0.5 more or -0.5 lower, the pump has delivered the right volume. If the fuel displays below the calibration then the pump is not delivering the right volume.[/caption] In some cases, the fuel dispensed into the 10-Litre can does not show up at all in the crystal tube, this also means that the pump is delivering below 1-Litre. The above illustration would guide the consumer in determining whether the service station is delivering value for money. Where it is established that a particular retail outlet is delivering lower volume than expected, the consumer is encouraged to complain to the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and for it to collaborate with the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) in rectifying the inaccuracy and sanctions applied.
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Outreach Programmes To ensure that consumers know their rights and obligations, the Authority carries out nationwide door-to-door campaigns every year to educate consumers on their rights regarding service quality at the retail level. The Authority also initiates research nationwide to ascertain concerns of motorists regarding patronage of petroleum products. These measures are aimed at ensuring customer satisfaction, improve competition and reduce future cost of customer transactions. An assessment of customer satisfaction is in fact an assessment of how customers perceive activities within the downstream industry. Apart from the outreach programmes, the Authority has widely publicized petroleum consumer complaints lines in various news outlets for consumers to report issues relating to cheating at the pumps, bad customer service, safety issues and suspected poor fuel quality. Once complaints are received by the Complaints Unit of the Authority, a team is dispatched together with the officials from the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to the particular station to conduct a measurement and quality test. The NPA has the mandate to ensure that all players within the industry abide by the set standards and so the GSA becomes a strategic partner in carrying out this task. Officials from both Authorities collaborate from time to time. Clean Washroom The National Petroleum Authority, (NPA), has observed that some Filling Stations and Station operators are not maintaining a healthy and tidied urinal facility in their respective stations. A clean washroom is mandatory. The NPA monitors to ensure that the consumer gets a clean, hygienic and serviceable washroom for all retail or service stations. All operators who are guilty of this unholy practice are warned and are liable to sanctions.
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Conclusion Remember that the consumer is NUMBER ONE, hence deserves the following service standards at the filling stations; quality fuel, the right to buy fuel at the prescribed price, receive professional customer service, clean washroom and safe service environment. When a customer finds or is offered anything short of the above, the consumer should call the Authority on toll free 080012300 (Vodafone Lines only) or main lines 0302 766193/6, or MTN 0545006111/ 0545006112 to report. By Eunice Asiedua Kotoku||Ghana The writer is the Consumer Service Manager of the National Petroleum Authority Email: [email protected]]]>