Many petrol pumps in Chattogram engage in various irregularities, including tampering with weight scales, due to more stations being authorised to sell petrol than needed, unequal competition, and low commissions on fuel sales, said leaders of the filling station owners association.
The observation came after some 11 filling stations in Chattogram were fined Tk2.6 lakh by mobile court for irregularities over the last two days.
The district administration conducted the drives amid the sudden fuel price hike in the country and has also temporarily closed a petrol pump.
According to the latest data from the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC), filling station owners get a commission of Tk2.83 per litre of diesel sold, Tk4.92 for octane, and Tk4.78 for petrol.
Filling station owners said their profits from the commission come only after bearing other costs, claiming it was difficult to meet operating costs on whatever remained.
According to the Bangladesh Petroleum Dealers, Distributors, Agents & Petrol Pump Owners' Association, of the 4,796 filling stations in the country, Chattogram division has 232 stations, of which 186 are in the Chattogram district.
People concerned say the approval of the district administration, marketing agency, directorate of explosives, BPC, the ministry of energy, and the city corporation, are all required to open a petrol pump.
In recent years, there has been an unfair competition among owners as more filling stations have been permitted than required. As a result, some filling stations are even tampering with weight scales to make a profit, they said.
Nazmul Haque, president of the association, told The Business Standard (TBS), "A petrol pump has operating costs like electricity bills, salaries of employees, and more. A company has to sell 8,000 to 10,000 litres of oil daily to make a profit.
"But the authorities have approved 10 filling stations in places where only two would have been enough, which is why owners are failing to sell enough fuel to make a profit.''
He also said, "Of course, to understand tampering with weight scales, you have to get to the root of the problem. Our filling station owners say if you can 'manage' the administration you will survive, and those who fail to 'manage' are fined."
Haque said a monitoring committee was formed in 2013 to address these issues. "There were BPC and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) representatives, Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection representatives, and our association in that committee. But this monitoring committee has not conducted a single drive and the irregularities cannot be stopped suddenly; we have to conduct regular monitoring."
Ehsanur Rahman Chowdhury, president of the Chattogram branch of the Bangladesh Petroleum Dealers, Distributors, Agents and Petrol Pump Owners Association, said, "No one is a saint in this business. The marketing companies also tamper with weight scales, but there is no one to monitor that. The administration should conduct operations against them."
He also urged the authorities to take action against those who are selling loose diesel, octane, and petrol on the streets.
Anisur Rahman, assistant director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, Chattogram region, told TBS, "We will conduct operations upon any complaints. Our organisation deals with all sorts of consumer rights, not just fuel."