By Joselyn Biira Mwine
Spikes in fuel prices have bothered most of the consumers especially now as people try to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 lockdown. Shooting oil prices have hit family budgets but consumers can do little about them except fuming at the government or wondering if the global factors will soften. However, there is one thing totally in your control—not to get short-changed at the petrol pump. Short selling or selling adulterated fuel is a common phenomenon across the country.
To help consumers navigate through the labyrinth of rules and information thrown at them, it is important to understand a consumer’s rights and duties. While the decision of which fuel station to go to lies with the consumer, it is your right to know how to check that pumps are dispensing the actual amount of fuel paid for and what they can do if they are not doing it well.
UNBS is mandated to protect consumers, traders and the environment by among other things, verifying the instruments used in trade. Among these are fuel dispensers or pumps. The aim of verification is to promote equity, encourage fair business practices, ensure value for money to the customer and improve consumer confidence in the petroleum retail industry by assuring that all pumps at petrol stations across the country meet the regulatory requirements of the Weights and Measures Act Cap 331.
Consumers should be vigilant and check for the following;
- The selling price of products which the dealer is required to display prominently at the outlet
- Look out for the price displayed on the roadside board and that price should tally with what is on the dispensing pump.
- Always ask, and insist if required, for a receipt with every purchase.
- Ensure zero on the machine before delivery. There are other good reasons for ensuring zero on the machine. For instance, if you want to get your car refuelled for Shs. 50,000, and before your turn, a boda boda was filled up for fuel worth Shs. 20,000, the attendant might resume from Shs. 20,000. Such malpractice can be easily detected by monitoring your car’s mileage. All you need to do is be careful and attentive while getting your vehicle re-fuelled.
The Weights and Measures Act (as implemented by UNBS) provides for the colour coding of a pump after verification, in accordance with the product being dispensed.
Red sticker – Petrol; normally indicated at PMS (Petroleum Motor Spirit)
Yellow sticker- Diesel; normally indicated at AGO (Automotive Gas Oil)
Green – Kerosene; normally indicated as BIK (Bulk Illuminating Kerosene)
These stickers are tagged with the date of verification and next due date when verification should be done which is 6 months. The signature of the UNBS inspector who has verified that pump must also be indicated on the sticker. The Verification Sticker is government property and should not be altered or defaced. Only an authorized government official can affix or remove the sticker.
UNBS Legal Metrology inspectors check the element of measurements. They verify that if someone pays for two litres, they should in fact get what they pay for. This is aimed at protecting both the consumer and the retailers; the pump should not over dispense (to protect the retailer) or under dispense (to protect the consumer). The equipment may not be 100% accurate but the errors should fall within the permissible tolerances provided for in the Regulation.
If a pump is found to be failing, the UNBS inspector then re-adjusts and seals the point where adjustment can be done to prevent unauthorised adjustments. Once the seal is installed, it cannot easily re-adjust. The stickers are then put on the pump to indicate that it has been verified and sealed.
Consumers need to be confident that they are getting what they pay for at the fuel pump and UNBS is committed to ensuring this confidence is upheld and maintained. If you suspect that a fuel station could be cheating you, please reach us on our toll free line 0800133133 or on our social media platforms.
The writer is a Public Relations Officer at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards.