The Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) planned review of the current gas cylinder exchange system that has favoured households but has inadvertently resulted in mounting debts among dealers needs to be handled with care.
The exchange pool has seen oil marketers accept rivals’ empty cylinders when a customer wants to refill, making it convenient for buyers.
This open exchange system was made possible by the introduction of universal valves for gas cylinders in 2009.
Prior to this period, each dealer had their unique valve, restricting consumers to a certain brand during refills. This arrangement inconvenienced many homes, especially those located far from their respective dealers.
The problem is that oil marketers are obligated to pay rivals a fee covering the deposit fee each customer is deemed to have paid during purchase of cylinder.
However, some oil marketers, especially the small ones, have been blamed for delays in paying rivals the deposit fee, a debt burden that is now estimated to be in excess of Sh500 million.
The planned system review should be done with the consumer in mind. The regulators should not only consider pricing and access but also address safety concerns.