Consumers rights groups stiffly opposed the operators' demand for raising the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as the energy regulator held a public hearing on price re-fixing on Monday.
The rights groups urged Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) to proceed on the issue cautiously to avert litigation in higher court, while the operators insisted on increasing the price further to cover losses in their business.
Both sides placed their respective arguments during the public hearing held at BIAM Auditorium in the city. Convened by the BERC, it was presided over by the commission chairman Abdul Jalil. Other members of the BERC have also attended the hearing.
The BERC has been re-fixing the LPG price on a monthly basis since April 12 this year. But LPG Operators of Association of Bangladesh (LOAB) oppose the process saying that much of their costs were not calculated and considered in the price-fixing that resulted in a loss in business.
LOAB and its members also appealed to the BERC to review the price fixing formula and accommodate all costs in re-fixing the LPG price. Responding to the appeal, the BERC convened the public hearing to discuss the issue in an open meeting.
Advisor of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Prof Shamsul Alam, while placing his arguments at the hearing, alleged that much of the LPG price related information, provided by the operators, lacks accuracy.
He said documents show the shipping charge per tonnes of LPG is $69 while the LPG operators are demanding $126 while such charge is about $20 in neighbouring India.
He said the LPG operators are demanding the price of 12-kg LPG at Tk 1,381 while it is selling at Tk 1,100.
"If a retailer can sell 12-kg LPG at Tk 1,100, how could they argue for a price at Tk 1,380?" he raided the question.
He also said public hearing on re-fixing the price of LPG should not be held as there is no scope to entertain the appeal of the LPG operators as the appeal was made beyond the BERC provision.
"Concerned provision says any appeal for review a decision should be made within 30 days while the appeal for review was made beyond 30 days", he added.
Head of Marketing of the Bashundhara LPG Jakaria Jalal said there are so many anomalies in the price calculations as many costs were not considered by the BERC while fixing the price.
He said distributors' cost is calculated at Tk 24 per 12-kg LPG while it is Tk 50 for public sector LPG which is clear discrimination.
The LPG Auto Gas Station and Conversion Workshop Owners Association president Mohammad Sirajul Mawla demanded that Auto LPG gas price should be fixed once a year instead of monthly basis at the consumer level. In this case, he urged the BERC to fix the price at Tk 45 per litre.
Hasin Parvez, general secretary of the organisation, demanded a commission of Tk 8.0 per litre for the owners of Autogas stations and said the government should encourage this environmentally friendly fuel in every possible way.
Eminent economist Prof MM Akash said if the LPG operators do not abide by the BERC rules, the government should go for open market and select the international firms through a competitive bidding process to run the local LPG business.
President of Bangladesh Mobile Phone Customers Association Mohiuddin Ahmed said the LPG operators threatened to shut down their business which in no way should be allowable by the BERC.
Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) leader Ruhin Hossain Prince and Ganasamhati Andolon Chief Coordinator Zonayed Saki also addressed the public hearing.
In the concluding remarks, BERC chairman Abdul Jalil requested all stakeholders and participants to submit their additional information and documents by September 19.
As per the provision, BERC takes 90 days to make its decision on any issue after holding a public hearing.