FUEL retailers will have to pay refunds, which could come to millions of rand, to motorists who filled up before the government picked up a costly error in the recent petrol price adjustment.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) yesterday announced that it had overstated the petrol price adjustment that kicked in at midnight on Tuesday by 6 cents.
On Monday, the DMRE announced that the price of petrol for both 93 and 95 ULP and LRP will increase by 81 cents per litre, taking the fuel hike to a record high of above R20 per litre.
But yesterday, the department’s director of fuel pricing mechanism, Robert Maake, said the correct petrol price adjustment was an increase of 75 cents per litre, not 81 cents per litre.
Maake profusely apologised for the inconvenience, saying it was the first time that such an error had occurred in the history of basic fuel price determination in South Africa.
He said the 6 cents difference was due to the fact that the adjustment wages for service station employees had already been implemented in September.
“Unfortunately, the department doesn’t even have any mechanisms to refund people, this is the first time that this happens,” Maake said.
“If the retailers have collected this money and there is proof, in my view, as a retailer, I would refund that motorist because the money was not necessarily due to me, it was given to me erroneously.
“The department has informed all the stakeholders in the petroleum industry to effect the corrections immediately.”
The SA Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) agreed to comply with the new price structure with immediate effect.
Sapia executive director Avhapfani Tshifularo said they were informed of the error by the DMRE late on Tuesday, but it was too late to make any changes by then.
“[This error affected the industry] by the sale of fuels between adjustment and correction, retailers sold at a higher price,” Tshifularo said.
“Representing the industry, Sapia will discuss this with the DMRE, to explore measures to avoid a recurrence.”
Even with the reduced increase, the December fuel price adjustments still push the price of petrol past the R20 per litre mark, biting hard on struggling consumers’ wallets.
The Automobile Association (AA) yesterday jumped on this fiasco, saying the error validated its call for a total review, and an audit of all the processes and components which comprise the fuel price.
The AA said the fact that daily fuel price updates were being withheld from the public meant there was no transparency in the process of fuel price determination.
“While we appreciate that errors occur, the impact of the fuel price on millions of South Africans cannot be underestimated,” the AA said in a statement.
“This error, in fact, must be the catalyst for such a review. This supports our view that a review of the fuel price is long overdue.”
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE