Friday, September 26, 2008

Fuel traders are tempering with scales and measurements equipment in Tanzania, what is to be done?

By Hydeman Mrosso
The practise of unscrupulous fuel traders on tempering with scales and measurements equipment is a usual market practice all over this country.

On several occasions’ consumer isn’t noticing s/he is robbed, or even if s/he knows there is no where they can go for assistance.

To react to the situation, some fuel consumers have opted to purchase fuel into containers with right measurements say ‘’five’’ litres and refill to their cars, due to absence of trust within the industry.

Not only measurement tempering; but also there is a problem of adulteration by mixing fuel with kerosene. The quality of fuel used to our vehicles is purely uncertain and lead to very high costs of repair and maintenance of our cars.

Worse still, there are about four government sectoral regulatory authorities and agencies in controlling and coordination of fuel and fuel business these include; Tanzania Bureau of Standards, Energy Water and Utility Regulatory Authority, weight and measurement agency and Fair Competition Commission.

Despite the presence of the above, however the problem of consumers’ abuse and violation on their rights is still on the rise and it is affecting dearly; economic welfare of many innocent consumers in the country.

TCAS do understand that most of these regulatory bodies lack the capacity to investigate, litigate and monitor the increasing consumer abuses among fuel suppliers and service providers in the market.

All are understaffed and lack resources to perform their duties such as consumer protection all over this country. To be more specific to these; TBS-among other things deals with quality control and monitoring, EWURA-fuel business regulation, Weight and measurement agency-monitoring of calibration in support of EWURA, FCC-amongst other things oversee there is no unfair conducts such as these to either amongst dealers or consumers in the market.

What is to be done?
It’s a matter of fact that, it is beyond reasonable doubt that; no matter how strict the inspection on quality, regulation, and measurement could be; it is impossible to inspect all the dispensing outlets of fuel in a country all the time.

The only best backup solution to this is to build a society of well-informed and knowledgeable consumers who can report for any problem to the respective authority for action.

All the above authorise are not well known to the majority of consumers, and consumer doesn’t know what are their roles and the like.

These authorities should give relevant consumer education to the general public; educate the public on complaint procedures and give to the public how best they can be contacted just in case consumer needs their assistance.

I would suggest that, telephone numbers of these authorities’ consumer complaints departments; must be placed at each dispensing station just in case there is any complaint from consumer.

Through this way consumers will supplement the gaps of most of these authorities by reporting any discrepancy found in the market.

Moreover; TCAS is in support of the idea that it should be a must; a pipe from a dispensing machine to the customer’s fuel tank; should be changed from black pipe to transparent one. This will allow for monitoring of fuel colour and some how amount dispensed by a customer himself.

Apart from the above; there must be a deliberate effort by the government to strengthen regulatory institutions and build their capacity to deliver the intended goals.

If these authorities work on their full capacities, will contribute enormously to the reduction of acts which lead to the marginalization of the poor to acquire their economic potentials and hence help to alleviate poverty in the society by boosting equal opportunity for growth at the grassroots level at a balanced and equal development of Tanzanian society.

How does TCAS combat this?
TCAS is working toward supplementing government efforts by giving consumer education on changing consumer behaviour and altitude toward their feeling of powerlessness through advocating for economic justice and their consumer rights.

Moreover TCAS works on promoting access of citizens to information on product safety, and where consumer can go for his/her rights protection, as well as promoting wide public discussion on challenges facing consumers in Tanzania.

TCAS works on supplementing government efforts of working toward emergence of knowledgeable consumers in the market.

Only when consumers are educated, treated equally and fairly into all economic forums and there will be equitable growth, and maintains human security in areas where advances in human development are being threatened through consumer’s rights violation.

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