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Gas-cylinder fraud becomes rampant   2011-06-18 - VNS

Dozens of cases of illegal gas trading uncovered in recent months in HCM City have been caused by authorities' poor management, industry insiders said.

A preliminary estimate by the Southern Gas Association showed that city authorities fined dozens of illegal gas traders from February 20 to May 20, seizing thousands of gas tanks with fake logos of established gas traders.

Le Thi Anh Man, chairwoman of the Southern Gas Association, said no measures had been taken to address rampant illegal gas companies.

Most of the shops that illegally produce these gas tanks cannot be traced.

Although random inspections conducted on city streets can at times discover vehicles transporting these tanks, they represent only a small percentage of the huge volume of illegally traded tanks, Man said.

She said illegal gas filling had led to a decline in the output of legal, registered gas traders.

No sign of abating

Nguyen Sy Thang, chairman of the Viet Nam Gas Association, said that the Decree on Gas Market Management had clearly specified responsibilities of agencies and sectors from central to grassroots levels.

But trade fraud remained popular and showed no signs of abating, he said, adding that administrative fines of a few million dong were not heavy enough to crack down on illegal gas traders that could earn big profits.

Ha Van Loc, business director of Vimexco Gas Company, said that fake and illegal gas products had been a headache for registered gas traders, who could hardly compete with the former in terms of price.

He said Vimexco had to cut as much as 20 per cent of its output in May. There have been many customer complaints about fraud. One customer on Mac Dinh Chi Street in District 1 called the Quang Vinh gas distribution agent in Binh Thanh District, complaining that her family's 12kg gas cylinder weighed only 4.2kg after three days of use.

Another client in District 9 said she bought a 12-kg gas tank in the morning and the weight fell to 6kg in the afternoon.

But Nguyen Quang Vinh, owner of the Quang Vinh gas agent, said his agent had never distributed gas to these customers.

The customers said they realised they had been deceived after Quang Vinh staff offered explanations at their home.

The two customers said they had bought the gas tanks based on a telephone number printed on the flyer of Hoa Binh Minh gas agent.

But they could not locate where the Hoa Binh Minh gas agent was given the flyer which only displayed the telephone number for delivery without an address.

Customers angry

Many other customers showed their anger as they had bought underweight gas tanks, but did not know how to file complaints.

Registered, legitimate gas traders said they had incurred major losses, up to 50 per cent of market share, because of fake and underweight gas tanks.

Nguyen Sy Thang, chairman of the Viet Nam Gas Association, said that to stabilise the gas market, relevant authorities should fulfil their monitoring responsibilities, and gas agents and distributors must adhere to regulations on gas trading.

He said consumers should be aware of buying registered gas tanks with clear brandnames and not buy cheap ones to prevent the circulation of illgal and fake gas products.

Many gas traders are awaiting a Government draft decree that will set heavy administrative fines for illegal gas traders.

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