I find the article “Self-service pumps will benefit few, harm many” by Pierre Heistein (Business Report, September 12) misleading.
The writer makes a general statement: “The strike by petrol attendants, among others in the fuel and motor retail sector, has prompted oil firms to consider installing self-service pumps in South Africa.”
This is a ludicrous statement because the Petroleum Products Act is very clear on self-service. The act states that no person may make use of a business practice, method of trading, agreement, arrangement, scheme or understanding which is aimed at or would result in:
n A licensed wholesaler holding a retail licence except for training purposes as prescribed, but excludes wholesalers and retailers of liquefied petroleum gas and paraffin;
n Self-service by consumers of prescribed petroleum products on the premises of a licensed retailer.
I fail to understand why oil firms will even consider self-service as an option for South Africa because it is illegal. Why will oil firms consider an illegal solution?
The writer further states that: “Self-service pumps exist in many countries and clients can pay by credit card or by cash at a central cashier. There are isolated cases of clients filling up and driving off but generally security measures are in place to prevent this…”
I do not agree with this statement. Petrol drive-offs are common in countries such as Australia, the UK and others.
Finally, the writer states that: “Apart from saving a few frustrating days of strike action, there is no further benefit to the consumer from firing all petrol attendants. The only result is lower costs and higher profits to the oil firms.”
The oil industry is a volume-driven, low-margin business. The petrol attendants’ labour costs are recoverable in the price structure and, therefore, if they disappear logic dictates that prices must come down, especially in a competitive market. Therefore, the statement that oil firms will earn higher profits cannot be supported.
Sa petroleum industry association