Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
Complaint Petition seeking intervention of Hon'ble National Commission for loss inflicted on crores of Indane consumers by Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela.
BEFORE THE NATIONAL CONSUMER
DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
Original Petition No. 224 /2001
An Application under Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act
In the matter of:
Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Represented through
2. General Manger (LPG-MO)
3. Sr. Manager (LPG),
4. Sri H.S. Dua,
5. Sri B. Minz
Government of India represented through
7. Dy. Director,
8. Addl. Secretary,
Govt. of Orissa, represented by
9. The Controller,
May it please your honours:
1.0 That the complainant is a Voluntary Consumer Organisation Registered under the Societies Registration Act, espousing the cause of the consumers and general public and for protecting their rights and interests, by getting their grievances redressed though the redressal agencies and the authorities. As such the complaint petition is filed before the Hon’ble Commission as per Section 2(1)(b)(ii).
2.1 That the OP No. 1 is the Chief Executive of M/s Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., hereafter referred to as IOC, producers and Marketers of ‘Indane’ LPG, Cooking Gas, among other products and is fully accountable for all the activities of IOC.
2.2 That the OP No. 2 of IOC is the executive responsible for the marketing of ‘Indane’ LPG Cooking Gas, among his other activities.
2.3 That the OP No. 3 of IOC is the executive accountable for the correct bottling of LPG in the ‘Indane’ bottling plant at Balasore, Orissa.
2.4 That the OP No. 4 of IOC is the executive responsible for the marketing of ‘Indane’ LPG Cooking Gas in Orissa in general and at Rourkela in particular.
2.5 That the OP No. 5 of IOC is the executive responsible for the marketing and related activities of ‘Indane’ LPG Cooking Gas at Rourkela.
2.6 That the OP No. 6 is the official in-charge of Legal Metrology of Government of India and is responsible for coordinating and ensuring that the provisions of Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977, are enforced across the country.
2.7 That the OP No. 7 is the official of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, coordinating the activities related to Legal Metrology in Orissa.
2.8 That the OP No. 8 is the Reporting Officer of OP No. 6 and is overall in-charge of the activities related to Legal Metrology, in addition to other assigned activities related to the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India.
2.9 That the OP No. 9 is the official of the Government of Orissa, responsible for enforcing the provisions of Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977, in the State of Orissa.
2.10 That the OP No. 10 is the LPG Cooking Gas dealer of IOC, at Rourkela, supplying LPG refills to the consumers of the Steel Township.
3.1 That a consumer approached the Complainant Council in the 1st week of June 2000 and complained that the Indane LPG refill received by him was short by 10 kg. or so and the OP No. 10 even after being informed was not giving the replacement. The consumer could ascertain the weight of the refill cylinder as he possessed a spring balance. A copy of the complaint received is furnished at Annexure-I.
3.2 That the Complainant Council talked to the representative of OP No. 10 regarding the complaint received and the concerned person immediately agreed to replace the under-weighed refill cylinder.
3.3 That in the 2nd week of June 2000 the aggrieved consumer referred to at 3.1 once again came to the Council’s office to thank for the intervention. During the discussion he informed that the replacement refill cylinder which he received was short by 1 kg. but he had accepted the same.
3.4 That having received a disturbing information that the Indane LPG refill cylinders were being under-weighed and being aware that the consumers but for exceptional cases had no facility to weigh the same must be taken for ride, the Council immediately decided to conduct a survey through its volunteers.
3.5 That between 14th to 21st
June 2000 the Council’s volunteers conducted a survey in the Rourkela Steel
Township covering 48 households. The list of households surveyed and the
LPG refill weights are furnished at Annexure-II. The survey revealed:
(2) Only 12.5 % of the refill cylinders weighed were within the tolerance range of 150 gms. or less, as prescribed in 2nd Schedule of the Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules;
were losing on an average Rs. 24/- per refill of Indane as per the
prices existing at that time.
4.2 That subsequent to the Council’s
initiative the OP No. 3 and OP No. 4 talked to the Secretary of the Complainant
Council over phone and OP No. 4 along with OP No. 5 visited the Council’s
office and held discussion about the under-weighment problem. They tried
to convince the Secretary of the Council that everything was OK and that
they were ready for a joint survey. As was agreed the joint survey was
supposed to be undertaken from 22nd July 2000, for about a week. On 22nd
July the joint survey commenced with Sri B. Panda, Jt. Secretary of the
Complainant Council and OP No. 5 representing the IOC. After taking 18
sample weighments, the OP No. 5 informed Sri Panda that he had some urgent
work at Bhubaneswar as his ED had called him for a meeting on 24th July
2000 and left the survey abruptly. A copy of the joint survey format with
18 readings has been furnished at Annexure-IV. The joint survey revealed:
(2) Only 22.2 % of the refill cylinders weighed were within the tolerance range of 150 gms. error, as prescribed in the 2nd Schedule of the Packaged Commodities Rules, 1977;
were losing on an average Rs. 25.50 per refill of Indane as per
the prices existing at that time.
4.4 That the Complainant Council concerned with the unreasonable stand taken by the IOC representative wrote to OP No. 6 once again informing the developments and soliciting his clarification regarding usage of spring balance, but no reply has been received till date, clarifying the point raised . A copy of the letter CP/IOC/143/2000-01 dated 1st August 2000 is furnished at Annexure-VI.
4.5 That the OP No. 3, 4 and 5 were repeatedly requesting the Secretary of the Complainant Council to visit their LPG Bottling Plant at Balasore, in Orissa as they were keen to impress that everything was proper at their end. Accordingly a visit to the Balasore Bottling Plant was arranged on 26th August 2000 between 12.30 to 2.00 PM. and the Secretary was taken from Bhubaneswar to Balasore by OP No. 4.
4.6.1 That the Secretary of the Complainant Council who was taken around the Bottling Plant at Balasore immediately found out as to why IOC was not able to ensure correct weight of LPG. The Bottling process is explained below:
Thus the whole process of filling and checking of the weighment involving unreliable and cumbersome manual operations is inherently error prone and cannot ensure appropriate quantity to the consumers.
4.6.2 That the Secretary of the Complainant Council, during his visit to the Bottling Plant at Balasore had got 6 of the refills checked in the on-line weighing machine in presence of the officers of IOC. As many as three were found to be under-weighed by 0.5 kg. to 1 kg.
4.7 That the Complainant Council informed OP No. 6, OP No. 1 and others and about the inherent shortcomings in the bottling process at Balasore and requested them to take appropriate action so that the consumers may get the right quantity of LPG in the ‘Indane’ refills. A copy of the said letter, CP/IOC/179/2000-01, dated 30th August 2000 has been furnished at Annexure-VIII.
4.8 That the OP NO. 6 advised the Complainant Council to contact the Legal Metrology officials of the State as they are supposed to enforce the provisions of Standards of Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977. A copy of the said letter WM 26(1)/2000, dated 11/9/2000 has been furnished at Annexure-IX.
4.9 That the Complainant aware of the fact that the crux of the problem is the incapability of the bottling plants across the country to ensure the right weight of LPG in the refills, wrote back to OP NO. 6 and all others concerned including OP No. 1 suggesting that the bottling plants should be fully automated, so that they may deliver correctly weighed refills. A copy of the letter under reference, CP/IOC/203/2000-01, dated 18th September 2000 is furnished at Annexure-X.
4.9.1 That it is an accepted fact that inspection and enforcement at the delivery point or after delivery cannot ensure that all the products turned out from a bottling plant adhere to the Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules 1977 unless the Bottling Plant itself is having a process capable of meeting the required Standards. Theoretically it might be possible that with utmost care, to ensure proper weighment of refills, but such efforts are at best can be a solution for the short term, because of the fatigue involved in such an exercise and also due to lack of economic and practical viability.
4.9.2 That as a matter of fact, after the Complainant Council pointed out the under-weighment of the LPG refills, as per reliable information, extra efforts were being put in at the Balasore plant to ensure that the cylinders meant for Rourkela (the Plant supplies to different areas of Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand/Bihar) contained the declared quantity. Further the Steel Township dealer had also been directed to weigh each and every cylinder while unloading from the truck. These measures, within a span of 45 days resulted in increased waiting period for the consumers from within 48 hours to more than a month. That had resulted as the OP No. 10 was forced to return as much as 40 % of the refills received, for under-weighment.
4.10 That due to the rationality of the arguments put forward by the Complainant and based on facts and figures, OP No. 6, OP No. 7 and others visited the Balasore Bottling Plant on 13/10/2000. Subsequently OP No. 7 visited Rourkela and held detailed discussions with the Secretary of the Complainant Council and he also had the opportunity to talk to some of the consumers listed in the survey. Later the Council also gave him copies of the 48 letters received from the consumers regarding under-weighment. Copies of two such letters have been furnished at Annexure-XI.
4.11 That subsequent to his visit to Rourkela, OP No. 7 wrote to OP No. 9 and requested him to check the gas cylinders of the consumers who had been listed in the Complainant Council’s survey. In the said letter OP No. 7 acknowledges that the letters produced by the Complainant were genuine. A copy of the letter No. RRSL-B-VII(1)/2000/967, dated 27th October 2000 has been furnished at Annexure-XII.
4.12 That it was reliably learnt during November 2000 that the OP No. 8 had written to his counterpart in the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas about the under-weighment of LPG refills.
4.13 That the Secretary of the Complainant Council also raised this issue during the Central Consumer Protection Council Meeting, held on 8th November 2000, at New Delhi and the representatives of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, who were present in the meeting assured that they would do the needful.
5.1 That having given sufficient time and opportunity to the IOC authorities, the Complainant Council once again did a random survey of weight of "Indane" LPG refills, in the Rourkela Steel Township, during April-June 2001. While the individual details are furnished at Annexure-XIII, the summary is given below:
No of refills found within the tolerance range of (-) 150 gms. (32.1%) - 18
No. of refills found beyond the permissible error of (-) 150 gms. (67.9%) - 38
5.1.2 That overall the refills were found under weighed by about 0.54 kg., resulting in a loss of about Rs. 10/- per refill to the consumer at the present rate of Rs. 253/- per refill, sold at Rourkela.
5.2 That the aggrieved consumers have written to the Complainant Council certifying the weight of the refill and requesting the Complainant to do the needful. Copies of two sample letters of the 56 nos. received have been furnished at Annexure-XIV.
6.0 That the Balasore Bottling Plant is producing about 25,000 refills per day. Assuming 300 working days per year, the Bottling Plant is producing 75,00,000 refills per year. Thus the plant is inflicting a loss of Rs. 7.5 crores (Rs. 10 X 75,00,000) on the consumers per year.
7.0 That there are an estimated 100 such LPG bottling plants in the country and as admitted by the plant manager of the Balasore Bottling Plant (Mr. Chatterjee) all the plants work on similar technology and process. Hence IOC alone should be getting unduly enriched to the tune of Rs. 750 crores (100 X Rs. 7.5 crores) per year.
8.0 That the Bharat Petroleum (BP) and Hindustan Petroleum (HP) must also be getting unduly enriched if they are running similar Bottling Plants.
9.1 That with the liberalisation and as per the policy of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the Price Control of Petroleum products will go with effect from 1st April 2002. With the decontrol, the prices of LPG and Kerosene are expected to shoot up as they are presently subsidised by the government.
9.2 That in future, with the hike in price of LPG, the loss inflicted on the consumers will go up substantially if timely action is not taken to automate the LPG Bottling Plants and to ensure that they deliver refills with declared quantity of LPG.
10.0 That the deficient bottling process was discussed by the Complainant Council with electronic engineers and as per rough estimate the automation can be done for the entire machine, within Rs. 5/- lakhs and this was also informed to the concerned authorities vide the Councils letter furnished at Annexure-VIII.
11.0 That in spite of all the efforts made by the Complainant to sensitise IOC and others, there appears to be no change and the consumers continue to receive under-weighed refills.
12.0 That supplying of less
LPG than 14.2 kg. as stated on the ‘Indane’ refill as well as in
the cash memo amounts to a defect as mentioned under Section 2(1)(f) and
is an unfair trade practice as described under Section 2(1)(r)(1)(i) of
the Consumer Protection Act.
In view of the submissions contained in the preceding paragraphs, the Complainant most respectfully prays the Hon’ble President and Members of the Commission to direct the Opposite Parties to:
(b) Check the weight of each of the Indane LPG refill at the doorstep of the household, in presence of the consumer, before they are delivered to the consumer so as to ensure that 14.2 kg. of LPG is delivered, till the requisite changes are made in their Bottling Plants;
(c) Pay a sum of Rs. 5,000/- to each of the 104 consumers listed in this petition (Annexure - II & XIII);
(d) Pay 1 % of the amount unduly collected in a year from the consumers through under-weighment, from across the country, to the Complainant Council, so that it may use the fund for doing more such surveys, studies and consumer protection activities;
(e) Pay the Complainant Council a sum of Rs. 50,000/- towards the cost of this petition; and
(f) Any other orders deemed necessary;
for Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
I, Sri B.Vaidyanathan, Secretary, Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela,
C/66, Sector - 2, Rourkela - 769006 do hereby verify and state that the
facts stated in this petition are true to the best of my knowledge and
based on official records of the Council, which I believe to be true.