Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development, Senator The Honourable Lynette Eastmond.
Government’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) has moved swiftly to address growing concerns about the accuracy of devices (pumps) being used to dispense fuel at petrol stations. These concerns come in the wake of two increases in the price of petroleum products so far this year; the most recent being last weekend.
The DCCA has in fact embarked upon an intensive monitoring programme to ensure the accuracy of fuel dispensing devices in use, while simultaneously educating the public as to the purpose and procedures undertaken in the calibration and verification of these devices or Retail Motor Fuel Devices (RMFDs) as they are referred to.
According to a senior official in the DCCA, the aim of the exercise is to promote equity, encourage fair business practices, ensure value for money to the customer and improve consumer confidence in the petroleum retail industry by assuring that all RMFDs at petrol stations across the country meet the regulatory requirements of the Weights and Measures Act Cap 331.
He said “the normal practice will be to carry out an official field examination every quarter in accordance with accepted international standards. In addition, random spot checks will be performed. These will be undertaken in response to consumer complaints or as a result of the need for government’s Trading Standards Inspectors to test a tagged meter before the scheduled time. All complaints will be investigated.”
He explained that “private firms are contracted by the marketers of the petroleum products to effect all calibration work, which must be undertaken in the presence of a Trading Standards Inspector, who is responsible for verifying the calibration procedure.”
The DCCA spokesman gave a detailed account of the process, outlining that the field examination consisted of four components: Inspection; Pre-test Determinations; the Test; and the Evaluation.
The Inspection ensures: the suitability and proper maintenance of equipment; nozzles and discharge hoses are not defective; there is no broken glass; the detection and repair of any leakages; the visibility and legibility of the indicating and recording elements; the clear identification and unit price of the product to be dispensed; that there are no advancements; and that measurement settings return to zero.
The Pre-test Determinations certify the correct level of tolerance and other test factors.
The Test is an accuracy exercise undertaken with the use of 5L and 20L Volumetric Provers. These are precision measuring instruments that are capable of providing reliable and accurate readings.
During the Evaluation aspect, the inspection and test results are assessed and a determination is made as to whether to approve or reject the retail motor fuel dispenser. If it is approved, two steps are taken: a numbered, tamper-proof security shield is affixed to the meter adjustment mechanism or calibrator head; and a Verification Sticker is placed on both sides of the dispensing unit in a conspicuous location. The sticker indicates the date of calibration and verification, the name of the government official who verified the examination and whether the dispenser has been approved, rejected or condemned.
The Verification Sticker is government property and should not be altered or defaced. Only an authorized government official can affix or remove the sticker.
A rejection signifies that the device (meter/nozzle) is removed from trade and must not be used commercially until corrective measures are undertaken and it is re-examined. The rejected device remains under the surveillance of the DCCA until it has been re-inspected and approved. The DCCA official specifies the time frame during which the defective meter should be repaired. Consequently, a ‘hold’ is placed on the device for this period and the device is either disconnected or locked to prevent commercial use. The final totalized readings are documented in order to monitor any incidence of tampering following a ‘hold’.
The DCCA spokesman also appealed to the general public to make sure that they observe the usual safety precautions at all petrol stations. He specifically reminded that motor fuels are combustible and extremely hazardous, and as such extreme caution must be exercised at all times.
He pointed out that during the verification exercise, “all work zones at the petrol stations are restricted and the government official has responsibility for ensuring that the area is safe. Warning cones are normally positioned to indicate the work zone. Vehicles and pedestrians should therefore avoid entering the work zone.”
In addition, he further reminded the public that the following practices are prohibited at all times: the use of mobile phones and smoking on the forecourt; filling gasoline containers on the bed of pick-up trucks that have a plastic bed liner; and filling motor vehicles while their engines are running.
“Once we observe these safety measures”, he stressed, “we would ensure a safe environment at all times.” (BGIS)