Customers cry foul

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cryHarsha Raj Gatty, August 4;Despite tall claims by the petroleum industry that modernised fuel stations dispense accurate levels of petrol and diesel, customers share a different view. Modernisation, they say, has not dulled the manipulative practices in petrol bunks across the City. For proof, they point to a number of fuel stations that make huge, unethical gains by subtly manipulating the naive customers.

Customers agree that most petrol attendants advise them to ensure that the meter readings indicate “zero” before the fuel is filled. But when the beeline of motorists get longer during rush hours, the attendants get into attention divert mode. The zero level is given a go-by, and they start filling from the previously filled level. Many customers feel that the station managers too are hand-in-glove with the attendants.

They cite instances galore to justify their suspicions. Here’s one: “The attendants simply ignored my request to show the fuel indicator “Zero” claiming that I was obstructing his long queue of customers. He arrogantly started filling fuel and eventually I realised that the fuel was almost 20 percent short of my demand,” recalls Madhav Nayak, a software engineer from ITPL, Whitefield.

Another customer, Nikhil Kumar, a resident of Basaveshwanagar, had even caught an attendant dispensing lower quantity of fuel and pointed it out to the manager. “However, the manager, instead of listening to my grievance, ganged up with other attendants and started to argue.They claimed that my vehicle was old or the fuel gauge was showing incorrect readings. They did not even hand over the complaint registry that I had demanded,” he says.

Department of Legal Metrology (DLM) officials say they have been promptly following on the customer complaints related to excesses at the fuel stations, and taking action against those following unfair trade practices and duping customers. “Last month, we issued show cause notice to a filling station in JP Nagar. A customer had complained that he was distracted by the attendant to sign a credit card slip and he was overcharged close to Rs 300,” informs a DLM official.

The DLM is now probing into complaints that some outlets are transferring regular petrol products into their inhouse brands (Premium Petrol) dispensing units and selling them to unaware customer at exorbitant rates. “Anytime the customer suspects the quality of fuel, they can collect a sample of the same and ask for its purity check that is available in every station. They can complain to the nearest fuel franchise owner as well,” the official advises.

On their part, the fuel station owners assert that it is impossible to fool around with the meters since the automated devices in modernised bunks are tough to tamper with. In the past, the mechanical pumps were more susceptible to such tamperings by fuel vendors, points out B Boraiah, member of Bangalore Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

Customers, says Boraiah, should demand accountability. “The customer have the right to demand that the fuel indicator is “Zero”, and they must closely monitor the machine when the filling is in progress. They can even demand the receipt for the fuel dispensed, immediately after the filling in which both the price and the quantity is specifically mentioned.”

Every unit of fuel sold is measured and automatically dispensed. Even the engine oils are sold in sealed pouches and dispensed directly in front of the customers, he adds. Yet, the customers are not convinced that these are foolproof mechanisms, as the attendants and other bunk staff at some stations have deviced ways to hoodwink them.

Following the direction by the city police to install CCTV surveillance, bunk owners are now being asked by their association to install such devices. “The surveillance devices are not only for the safety of the fuel outlets, but they will also be used to verify any complaint against the fuel outlets,” explains an Association representative.

At a fuel station on Hosur Road, the bunk owner keeps an eagle’s eye on every vending machine. But even in some stations fitted with CCTV’s, surveillance does not necessarily mean better monitoring, particularly if the station manager is also part of a nexus. In a hurry to fill their tanks and join the traffic, car and bike owners always harbour these thoughts. They are not easily convinced.

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