I am writing this article to express my shock and severe disapproval over the manner in which local LPG distributors of Indane and HP Gas are fleecing consumers seeking new LPG connections by actually forcing them to buy LPG stoves from them along with the LPG connection. I thought this was happening only with our local Indane distributor, Gajanana Enterprises (Koramangala, Bangalore), but a search on the Internet reveals that this is a far more widespread racket than I thought. It seems to be happening all across the country. This is what prompted me to write this article.
Here’s my story…
We registered for an Indane LPG connection in August this year. At that time, all the petroleum companies had temporarily put a freeze on issuing new connections, so the folks at the local Indane distributor (Gajanana Enterprises) said that it would take a couple of months for us to be allotted a connection, and that we would be informed once that happened.
We were finally allotted a connection in October after the Govt. asked the petroleum companies to start reissuing LPG connections. We got a post card from Gajanana Enterprises informing us of this. So far, so good.
Here’s where the scam begins. When we went there to get the new connection, we were told clearly by them that as per the “new rules”, it is mandatory for all new consumers to buy ‘Green Label’ LPG stoves from them, without which they would not get the connection. I told them that we already have an ISI marked LPG stove and that it doesn’t make sense for us to buy a new one. But he said that an ISI mark is not enough, the LPG stove has to have a ‘Green Label’ as well. Now, the LPG connection costs Rs. 2,200. The cheapest LPG stove with the distributor costs Rs. 1,750, and is a complete waste for us!
I found this hard to believe and fishy. So we called up the nearby HP Gas distributor to confirm if this was true, and he also said the same thing. I still couldn’t believe that anyone could set such a precondition! So, I went home and e-mailed Indane (firstname.lastname@example.org). I asked them specifically two questions:
- Is it mandatory to have ‘Green Label’ marked LPG stoves, or is ISI mark enough?
- If the answer to the above question is yes, then is it mandatory to buy the stove from the distributor or can we buy it from anywhere?
To this, I received the following reply:
To: Vijay Padiyar
Sent: Wednesday, 15 October, 2008 5:35:07 PM
Subject: Re: Regarding compulsory purchase of LPG stove with new Indane connection
As per your email message appended below, we understand that you are in need of a new LPG Gas Connection.
Kindly be informed that New Domestic LPG Connections are being released across the Counter, to all those customers who wish to avail a New Domestic LPG Connection.
Please note that the Ration Card will have to be produced while availing the connection. This is a Mandatory requirement as per the Food and Civil Supplies Dept, Govt Of Karnataka.
Further , you may also opt for purchasing a LPG Stove / Cooking Range from the range available at our distributors showrooms. We recommend you to buy this product, since it is tested for better quality, higher safety, High Thermal Efficiency to the extent of 68% and cost effectiveness by our Company. We leave the choice to you to buy it from us or from any other source, so long as it bears the BIS mark or is of an approved quality / make.
Kindly get in touch with us on the contact nos. given below in case you require any assistance
With Kind Regards,
Dy Mgr (Customer Relationship)
Indane Area Office,
Tel Nos. 22239473 / 22130421
To: INDANECAREBLR@indianoil.co.in, email@example.com
From: Vijay Padiyar
Date: 10/10/2008 07:43PM
Subject: Regarding compulsory purchase of LPG stove with new Indane connection
We have been allotted a new Indane domestic connection through Gajanana Enterprises (Indane distributor in Koramangala, Bangalore). The distributor is telling us that we need to compulsorily have a ‘Green Label’ marked LPG stove at our home or otherwise buy it from them, failing which they cannot give us the new connection.
Can you please confirm if this is a policy decision taken by Indane, or is the distributor illegally forcing us to buy a LPG stove from him? If illegal, whom can I contact to report this?
We already have a LPG stove (with BIS certification but no ‘Green Label’) and would not like to buy a new one just to get the LPG connection.
Kindly clarify at the earliest, failing which I would have to file a RTI application.
Clearly as per the mail sent by Indane, there is no such rule that says that new consumers have to buy specifically a ‘Green Label’ marked LPG stove. The ISI mark is enough. The Indane website also says the same thing.
Furthermore, it also clarifies that the LPG stove may be purchased from anywhere and not necessarily from the distributor. I don’t know if the distributors are doing this on their own or with the connivance of the petroleum companies. I suspect it’s the latter.
So I went and confronted the local distributor Gajanana Enterprises with this e-mail. The guy manning the front desk asked me to talk to the senior official inside the cabin. I went and told him about the discrepancy in their version of the rules and that of Indane. Upon seeing the e-mail, he mumbled something that I couldn’t hear properly and then agreed that I can just take the LPG connection and needn’t buy the LPG stove.
Satisfied finally, I went back to the front desk guy and told him that his boss agreed with me. Upon hearing this, he immediately got an unpleasant look on his face. He started threatening me saying that they have to conduct an inspection at our house as per the rules to verify that the applicant doesn’t already have a LPG connection, and if they find one there then we would not be given the connection. I agreed for this as it’s a legitimate rule, but I’m afraid that they can easily misuse this rule and falsely state that we have a connection and deny or at least delay our getting a connection.
Nevertheless, I said ok. Seeing this, he said that they would come anytime during the weekdays between 9 AM to 5 PM for the inspection. Now, both me and my wife are working people and it would not be possible for us to be home on weekdays. So we asked him to at least specify which day they would come, or at least give a phone call before coming so we could be present when they came. He simply refused, clearly betraying his intention of harassing us. Finally my wife, a localite, convinced him to come before 11.30 AM.
Now I cannot leave for work till 11.30 AM for the entire next week. I just hope that they will come within the time they specified and will not harass us further. But even if they do, I am not going to give in to their illegal demands under any circumstances. I will complain to the following:
- Dept. of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (http://pgportal.gov.in)
- Consumer Protection Forum (http://core.nic.in/), for violation under Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act
- Indane LPG helpline (Ph: 1800-2333-555)
- Newspapers and news channels (through Citizen Journalist initiatives)
Request all those of you reading this to also not take this lying down. People like these are emboldened in their actions because consumers either don’t know or don’t bother to check the rules, or don’t protest fearing harassment. But I have realised that such people are also afraid of being exposed, and will come around when confronted with evidence of their wrong doing.
I hope for a “happy ending” for my story! But I also shudder to think of how many tens of thousands of people they would have fooled so far, and how much money they would’ve made…
UPDATE: A Happy Ending!
Well, this part is straight out of a Bollywood movie! So as I wrote above, I finally wrote an email to CNN-IBN Citizen Journalist. And guess what. They called me! One lady spoke to me and said she would like to include me on their show. I was happy that I finally found someone to raise my issue and that of many others suffering like me.
Later, I went to my colleagues and discussed the developments with them. And now’s the kahaani mein twist! One of my colleagues, a very dear friend of mine whom I’ve known for over 5 years now, turned out to be the sister of the owner of Gajanana Enterprises!!! I was stunned! I didn’t know what to say or how to react. I mean, just when I thought I had my tormentors by the scruff of their necks, it turns out that I can’t really escalate the situation in this way because the owner happens to be my friend’s sister!
But anyway, she talked to her sister about the situation and how the matter would get escalated if it wasn’t sorted out soon. And as expected, the next morning the inspector arrived at our house dot at 9.30 AM, inspected our gas stove and submitted his report without any harassment whatsoever! And we got the connection the same day – finally! And all this without paying a paisa extra!
So, thank you my friend and thank you CNN-IBN, for helping me out! I hope at least some of you will be inspired by my story and raise your voices against such activities in future!
- Indane online complaint form
- HP Gas online complaint form
- Bharat Gas online complaint form
- Public Grievance Redressal Mechanism (DARPG)
- Consumer Protection Forum
- Rights of LPG consumers
- How to write and submit a RTI application