Hassled over the delay in the delivery of your gas cylinder? Try the RTI route

Supply of LPG as kitchen fuel is covered by the Essential Commodities Act, which requires the cylinder to be delivered at home within 48 hours of booking. However, many get it up to a week or even a fortnight later. Some activists have invoked the RTI Act successfully to shake up the oil companies and the gas agencies

LPG kitchen fuel is covered by the Essential Commodities Act. But how often has the gas agency not taken you for a ride, rarely delivering the gas cylinder within the stipulated 48 hours? A common complaint is that it takes up to a fortnight to get a gas cylinder at home. Or, that no one answers the phone at the agency. So, you have to go personally to the agency to pick up a cylinder. Or, you may have doubts over the weight of the cylinder.

So, what are the rights of consumers under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 and the corresponding LPG (Regular Supply & Distribution) Order 2000? Here are some not-so-well-known aspects.

* Bookings for the gas cylinder must be accepted over the phone.
* 100% home delivery.
* The gas cylinder should to be delivered within 48 hours of booking.
* The customer has the right to weigh the cylinder on taking delivery.
* Gas agencies must be open for business between 10 am and 6 pm, except on public holidays and Sundays.
Now, were you aware that a gas agency must accept bookings for cylinders over the phone and that you should not be asked to collect the cylinder from the agency office (for the purpose of safety)? And that it is mandatory for the delivery man to carry a portable weighing machine and weigh the cylinder at your doorstep?

And are you aware that most of the times the LPG shortage story concocted by gas agencies is absolutely false? That it is because the agencies indulge in large-scale illegal sale of domestic cylinders to commercial establishments that you do not get your cylinder in time? Look around and you will find that street-side vendors and even kitchens of big restaurants use the red-colour gas cylinder (that is supposed to be only for domestic use) and not the blue-colour ones (which is meant for commercial establishments and is more expensive).

Recently, former petroleum minister Ram Naik stated that scarcity of LPG cylinders has reached dangerous proportions all over the country and he requested Jaipal Reddy, the current petroleum minister, to check this. Many a time, the ministry of petroleum releases advertisements to announce that there is no scarcity of LPG cylinders. Hence, almost always, the root of the problem is the illegal sale of cylinders, and so you as a domestic consumer must not take this injustice lying down. Invoke RTI to scare the gas agency and compel him to do his duty.

In Pune, for example, a leading LPG distributor stated that around one and a half lakh domestic gas cylinders are sold to commercial establishments, thus the delay in delivering cylinders to homes. The problem is never sternly addressed by the district collectorate and the petroleum company, putting the housewife to constant inconvenience.

Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar has made it his mission to help people overcome poor service by gas agencies. His own experience steered him to help others. Way back in 2005, he was hassled with his gas agency who took three weeks or more to deliver the cylinder. He addressed a query under RTI to the Hindustan Petroleum Company (HPCL) asking for details of the distribution of cylinders by Kankaria Gas agency in New Sangvi (a fringe neighbourhood of Pune). The questions in his RTI application were as follows:

1) How many domestic and commercial cylinder gas customers does Kankaria Gas Agency have (the period of information was for one and a half year) and if there was any fluctuation in the number of customers in any month;

2) The number of domestic and commercial customers having one, two, and more than two gas cylinders?

3) Between 1 September 2005 and 30 November 2005 how many gas cylinders did the Kankaria Gas Agency procure from HPCL (information to be given date-wise); and

4) Whether HPCL has taken action against any gas agency in Pune regarding the erratic distribution of gas cylinders-if so, the names of such agencies.

While the officer is allowed by law to take 30 days to answer a query, Mr Kumbhar got a shock when, within two hours of his filing the RTI application, his wife called him to say that the dealer had sent the gas cylinder. This showed a strange nexus between the gas agency and some officials at HPCL.  Ever since, Mr Kumbhar has urged many people to invoke the RTI and remind the respective gas agency that it cannot take consumers for a ride.

There are three main LPG suppliers-Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (www.hindustanpetroleum.com), Bharat Petroleum (www.bharatpetroleum.com) and Indian Oil Corporation (www.iocl.com). In order to file an RTI application under Section 6 of the RTI Act, you should visit their websites depending on which LPG gas you are using and click where the names of Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) are given, depending on which city/town you reside.

As per a central government gazette notification on 26 April 2000, the dealer of LPG is required to display the stock of LPG as follows:

  • Every distributor shall prominently display the stock and price of LPG at a conspicuous place on the business premises, including the storage point.
  • The opening balance of filled, empty and defective cylinders and regulators.
  • The backlog of preceding working day of the filled cylinders to be supplied.
  • Every distributor shall ensure that stocks of LPG are available at the business premises, including storage at all times.
  • No distributor can close his shop on any working day unless notified by the ministry.

Sometime in 2005, the then Sangli collector Manish Mhaiskar had raided all gas agencies in Sangli and taken action against those indulging in blackmarketing and delaying delivery. For more than a couple of years thereafter, Sangli had the best record of door delivery within the prescribed time. It is necessary for the collector's office to take such action and sustain it.
In case you are harassed by delay in delivery, you may ask the following questions under RTI, addressing it to the PIO of the particular petroleum/oil company under which your gas agency operates:
1)  How many domestic and commercial cylinder gas customers does the (write name here) gas agency have (the period of information could be 10 days) and if there has been any fluctuation in the number of customers in any month.
2) The number of domestic and commercial customers having one, two, and more than two gas cylinders.
3) In the 10-day period, how many gas cylinders did the gas agency procure from the petroleum/oil company (details of demand and supply to be given date-wise)?
4) Details of the demand and supply of cylinders to customers of the particular gas agency (for the 10 days) to be given in the following format.  

5) Whether the petroleum/oil company has taken any action against any gas agency regarding erratic distribution of gas cylinders; if so, the names of such agencies and the details of action taken.

Believe it or not, it works like magic.

Here are some things to keep in mind about your gas connection. 

When receiving the gas cylinder, you should be vigilant about

  • The date and serial number of your booking.
  • Sign the receipt only after checking the amount written and pay only the specified amount.
  • Insist on installation of the cylinder by the company's person.
  • Check the cylinder, asking the delivery man to open the seal and fix it to the regulator and check for any signs of leakage and only then accept the delivery.
  • Ensure you receive your domestic gas cylinder within the mandatory 48 hours of booking.
  • Ask the delivery man to carry a weighing machine to facilitate you to check the weight of the cylinder.

When taking a new connection, remember it is not mandatory to buy the gas stove, mixer, pressure cooker, tea boxes or any other consumer product.
Ask for a complete breakup of the cost at the time of paying for a new connection. This includes the deposit, regulator charges, cost of cylinder, stamp duty, documentation and administration charges, and in case you are not buying a gas stove, some basic charge to inspect the gas stove at your house as a safety measure.

And some safety tips

  •   Fix the cap when you are not using the cylinder.
  •    Switch off the regulator when you are not cooking and especially at night.
  •    Check the gas tube regularly and get it changed at regular intervals.
  •    Once in two years, ask your distributor to send a certified mechanic for a mandatory inspection and pay the basic charges for the servicing done.

And if you feel inspired to do more, when you find restaurants using domestic cylinders, report this misuse to the concerned authorities.

(Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected].)

1 year ago
I always has to go to the gas agency after the booking of the gas as they refuse to deliver the gas to our home, can you please where to file a complaint against it.
7 years ago
Sir,even after 18 days,I cannot get my LPG cylinder in time.My distributor name is KALPANA INDANE AGENCY,Bangalore.I have brought this matter to IOC portal,but no use.

Vinita Deshmukh
1 decade ago
It cannot be made compulsory since everyone may not possess a mobile phone but for people like you and me who have mobiles, I think it is quite cool to book the cylinder through sms
1 decade ago
My LPG gas agency(Hindustan Gas agency, Chennai) is insisting me to book by sms and asking not to call and book phone. Can this me made compulsory like this?
Jai Vardhan
1 decade ago
Thanks for such in depth insight regarding customer right and errant gas agency. At the same time you have shown the way of RTI is really potent for the customers. I hope people who have read this article can fight against the gas agency....
1 decade ago
Thanks Ms.Vinita for such an insightful and informative report.
1 decade ago
i wasn't aware about the 48 hrs delivery time. I was delivered my LPG gas in about 7 days. Thanks for the info.
Shadi Katyal
1 decade ago
We agree with the writer for his hard work for the article but there is nothing new. In our land of man made shortage for profit wnything is possible.
As the article state that one can see Red canisters and not blue even on the road vendors beside the hotels etc. what action the local police or Govt ever takes.
These people in order to earn their living must be paying through their noses to get such a supply while household might suffer but shoe fault is except GREED.
Our national character has now3 changed and all we see is money and will sell anything if the price is right and not our rights.Time to demand our rights
Abhijeet Pawar
1 decade ago
Wish to invest 15 lacks, please advice, how about investment in silver now
1 decade ago
Ram ji please also ask every indian to use solar cooker which cooks free of cost as compared to lpg and kerosene as use of later is fatal for indian economy. Please ask all govts state or central or district to promote and incentivize the use of solar cookers and alike solar passive methods to make india strongest
Nitin Kirtane
1 decade ago
This article is extremely well written and informative , i am now aware of how we have srtuggled over the years when my mother used to call the gas agency and get fooled as to when the gas will come and how there is less supply of gases from company and how it will take 3 weeks , on reading this article we followed the guidelines and can you beleive it got the gas delivery in a dqay , Thks Mrs Deshmukh looking forward to more such great articles from you ,
Rahul Kurup
1 decade ago
Dear Ms Deshmukh,

I cannot thank you enough for this insightful piece. I am hoping that positive change comes about through my RTI application.

girish deshpande
1 decade ago
insightful stuff, vinita. the trend in most upper middle class families, where man-wife are working and more than two cylinders are subscribed for, is to send the driver to pick up the cylinder! of home delivery is done, 'happiness money' is given to the delivery guy to keep him in good humour to imbibe prompt service in times ahead too. all this, because time is at premium. agree, people must be more involved, aware of their 'good citizen' duties to get systems to deliver. yes, the restaurant misuse bit IS indeed alarming a situation. thanks for this, again!
1 decade ago
Very very good article.
Vinita Deshmukh
1 decade ago
Angelo: Yes, he procured the documents he had asked for. The data of bookings and deliveries showed that the gas agency had made out-of-turn deliveries. Kumbhar then lodged an official complaint against this illegality to Hindustan Petroleum, The gas agency was asked to pay Rs.25,000 at penalty.
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