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Many City petrol stations admit to repeated rip-offs   2008-09-11 - Viet Nam News

After paying their fines, many dishonest gas station owners have admitted that they repeatedly cheat their customers because the profits gained are more than enough to cover the penalties.

Currently, it is difficult for an inspection task force to regularly check pump measure devices, business licenses and quality control measures, even once a year.

From June to August this year, the HCM City inspectors found six gas stations readjusting pump meters or dealing in poor-quality petroleum to overcharge their customers, according to the inspectors of HCM City’s Department of Science and Technology.

An offending gas station faces fines of about VND14.75 million (US$893) on average, too small a price to prevent dishonest people from cheating petrol users.

For example, a gas station that adjusts the pumps to shortchange the customer by as much as 10 per cent and then sells out all 3,000 litres, could pocket over VND5.1 million ($309) per day.

After three days, a gas station like that could earn VND15.3 million ($927), which would easily be enough to pay a fine for fraud if caught.

According to the Government Decision 95/2007, fines for operating pumps that cheat the consumers will increase from the current VND13 million ($788) to VND20 million ($1,212), and if necessary, gas station pumps will be confiscated.

Fines for inaccurate pumps in which the error is of a technical nature could rise from VND7 million ($424) to VND12 million ($727).

According to the HCM City’s inspectors, it is still difficult to react in a timely manner against fraudulent petrol station owners who mix a cheaper substance with petrol for profit.

Petroleum is a product to verify for quality. The inspectors are unable to make conclusions related to the quality of the petrol on the spot. Instead, the quality control requires time and the participation of various departments.

Currently, it is difficult for an inspection task force to regularly check pump measure devices, business licenses and quality control measures, even once a year.

From June to August, HCM City inspectors assessed only 201 gas pumps at 31 gas stations. There remain still hundreds of filling stations and thousands of gas station pumps left unchecked throughout the City.

Experts say the Government has yet to impose tough disciplinary measures on gasoline cheats and has not laid out a timeline for setting up an investigatory team on what is causing the increase in fraud at the pumps. As a result, dishonest gas station owners are becoming more sophisticated and harder to discover.

At petrol station No.2 in Binh Chanh District, the owner used electronic gadgets to tamper with the gas pumps to pilfer the liter gauge from 2.77 to 6.38 per cent of petrol meant for the customer. However, it was only fined VND13 million for a first offence.

Yet the gas stations fleecing customers in terms of both quality and quantity in HCM City would not have their business licenses revoked until August.

The Ministry of Science and Technology also asked provincial Departments of Science and Technology to make public the identities of the frauds to raise the alarm and protect the consumers.

In the dispatch issued on Tuesday, the ministry also requested the provincial departments to work with local authorities to inspect fuel measuring devices as well as fuel quality.

The ministry asked local authorities to issue strong penalties against violations from the stations, including suspending business, revoking business registration certificates and even filing criminal charges against violators.

The most popular grade of petrol in Vietnam is 92 octane petrol but some samples of gas failed to meet the advertised octane content. Many gas stations were using 90.8 octane petrol instead.

Dang Ngoc Chau, a member of the Vietnamese Lawyers Association said the petrol station owners which use petroleum that fails to reach quality standards could face jailtime ranging from 3 months to 3 years for the second offence and upward.

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