Ministry threatens to crack down on gas retailers

MASERU — The government this week threatened to clamp down on retailers who are inflating the price of fuel gas.

In a statement this week, the Ministry of Trade, the Department of Energy and the Petroleum Fund said they were concerned with the “monster price” hikes of gas on the local market.

“Having noted that the current price hike came about after an unprecedented shortage in the supply of fuel gas, due to the interruption caused by the South African Petroleum refineries (both planned and unplanned) shutdown, the government has come to note some serious developments that warrant immediate attention,” said the statement.

The government said the deficit had caused considerable disruption in the entire commercial sector, thereby affecting the end user immensely.

“Household users of the commodity seem to be the hardest hit by what has emerged to be a monster price hike.

“Unfortunately government is not in a position to alleviate the fuel gas supply shortage as this constitutes a predicament it has no control over whatsoever,” the statement said.

Retailers in Lesotho two weeks ago increased the price of gas by more than 100 percent following the closure of refineries in South Africa.

Lesotho gets all its supplies from South Africa.

A survey by the Lesotho Times has revealed that some retailers had drastically increased the price of gas on the market.

For instance, 9 kilogrammes of gas which was costing M160 previously is now selling at between M200 and M250.

Fourteen kilogrammes of gas is now going for anything between M240 and M260, up from M200 before the acute shortage hit the country some weeks ago.

But the government says it is committed to combating “any exploitative acts that are found to be directed at taking advantage of this situation”.

“These are traders who have maliciously decided to use this as an opportunity to exploit the innocent and ignorant consumer community by imposing ridiculously high prices on fuel gas,” the ministry said.

“Legally this is not acceptable. It is an outright criminal offence that constitutes a trading malpractice that is not only uncompetitive but is also fraudulent,” the government said.

The Department of Trade and Energy and Petroleum Fund urged consumers to report any gas traders who were inflating prices.

“Such behaviour should be reported to the Department of Trade and Department of Energy for appropriate legal action to be taken against such culprits,” they said.

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