CAA withholds gazette notification on Trade Minister’s reduction of 18-litre LPG cylinders

Bandula Gunawardena

The gazette on the reduction of the price of an 18-litre hybrid domestic cooking gas cylinder by Rs. 245, as announced by Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena, has been withheld by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) after it was discovered that the Cabinet has so far not made any recommendation on re-adjusting the existing pricing, a senior official said.

The Minister told the media last week that the price of the controversial LPG hybrid cylinders introduced to the market by Litro and Laugfs Gas have been reduced “following a Cabinet decision”.

“We will not be issuing a gazette notification to implement the price reduction as documentation sent to us by the Trade Ministry indicated that a Cabinet decision on the matter was still pending”, CAA’s Executive Director, Thushan Gunawardena said.

A gazette notification to give legal effect to such a price reduction cannot be published without a clear cut recommendation from the Cabinet, he pointed out. “It should be in black and white”.

He said that in terms of the documentation sent to the CAA from the Office of the Cabinet of Ministers via the Trade Ministry, the Cabinet paper, dated July 5, 2021, presented by Minister Gunawardena to the Cabinet on July 12, 2021 on the subject of reducing the price of 18-litre domestic LPG cylinders, was deferred until the next meeting on a request by the Finance Minister.

Gunawardena said the Minister’s statement to the media was misleading as it was clear that the Cabinet has still not decided on the matter.

“There would have been a load of trouble if we had gazetted the claimed price reduction without first scrutinizing the documents sent to the CAA”, he explained.

“We have clear instructions from the Attorney General’s Department not to recognize the 18-litre hybrid cylinders as they were introduced to the market in contravention of consumer protection laws”, he noted.

The contents of each 18-litre cylinder works out to 9.18 kilograms, which means that, unlike the 12.5kg cylinders, heavy vehicles will have to make more trips from point A to B to distribute them and replenish stocks, the Executive Director elaborated.

“At the end of the day, it will contribute towards increasing Sri Lanka’s carbon footprint”.

The launch of the new 18-litre domestic cylinders triggered protests by consumers and interest groups as a 12.5-kilogram cooking gas cylinder is sold for Rs. 1,493 in the market, whereas the 9.18 kilogram product was priced at Rs. 1,395 in spite of the weight being reduced by three kilograms.

It boils down to consumers being offered three kilograms less for a mere one hundred rupees cheaper than a regular 12.5-kilogram, industry officials said.

(Source: The Island – By Suresh Perera)