MERA closes Murray Road Total Filling Station in Lilongwe for swindling customers

Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) closed Murray Road Total Filling Station in Lilongwe from doing business on allegations that its pump attendants were swindling customers.

A letter from Chief Executive Officer, Henry Kachaje said MERA received a complaint from a consumer who had intended to buy fuel at K35,000 but he was given that worth K31,000.

“Our investigation confirmed that your attendant, Mr. Hendricks Chimoyo was overcharging customers and demanding tips for them to be sold fuel.

MERA CEO Henry Kachaje not tolerating unscrupulous traders

“This conduct is undermining efforts to equitable distribution and access of fuel to the public and is a serious violation of the Liquid Fuels and Gas Act.”

MERA thus invokes section 23 of the Liquid Fuels and Gas (Production and Supply) Act and Regulation 11 of the Liquid Fuels and Gas (Production and Supply) Regulations, that directs Murray Road Total Filling Station to suspend all sales with immediate effect as from date of the latter on Friday, October 14.

“The suspension will be in effect for 14 days from the date of this letter [and] furthermore, note that the opening of the retail station will be subject to satisfactory implementation of measures taken to avoid re-occurrence of the malpractice.

Kachaje also ordered management of the filling station to provide a report on the matter within 7 days also from the date of this letter — which ends on Friday, October 21.

In June last year, a concerned filling station owner, Happy Jere advised motorists to be vigilant when their are filling up their tanks following an incident that happened at Mount Meru close to the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.

It was reported that a lady filled up K4,000 worth of fuel and expected her gauge to be at quarter tank mark and felt duped by the attendant and ended up causing a fracas whilst trying to force the attendant to pay her back.

Jere had said he has been in the fuel service industry for 24 years, the first 8 years as a sales manager for BP Malawi responsible for managing filling stations and the remaining 16 as a franchisee for Puma Malawi Ltd.

Writing on Facebook, Jere advised motorists that fuel gauges, especially the digital ones which use bar indicators — from his experience and opinion — have a way of behaviour which may not be consistent as others may testify.

He emphasized that customers need to be taking interest in what the attendant is doing when filling up cars, saying when they are directed to a pump, the motorists should make sure they observe that the nozzle is properly placed in its cradle before the attendant starts serving.

He had added that if they find the nozzle either already in the attendant’s hands or sitting in an abnormal position where it rests just know someone is about to scam them.

“The pumps were designed to automatically reset to zero when the nozzle is lifted from its normal resting position. Those pumps are calibrated by Malawi Bureau of Standards and it is a mandatory exercise they carry out every year.

“They put special seals on the fuel calibration system in the pumping unit after the exercise that anyone tampering with the pumping system has to break those seals first to succeed in their scheming.

“They also conduct random spot checks to ensure compliance by operators. As customers you have a right to approach them at any moment you feel a particular service station is behaving unethically and cheating on you.

“They will bring their measuring instruments to verify your claims. MERA is also an interested party, you may approach to lodge your complaint.”

He went further to school motorists that the pumping system is designed in such a way that totalizers are pushed to move in response to the fuel that passes around the system — therefore it is not true to claim that a filling station can fill ‘air’ in a customer’s tank.

“The only way to steal fuel from a customer is either by manipulating the calibration system or the attendant behaviour in as said above.

“Finally be advised that whilst we as fuel retailers may not vouch for the behaviour of our staff in their daily conduct whilst discharging their duties, you can rest assured we do not approve nor condone any unethical behaviour by them.

“It is therefore appreciated when customers bring out such issues so that we deal with them and make your fueling experience more enjoyable,” Jere had said.

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