Petrol station operators face a R1million fine or 12 months’ imprisonment if they don’t cease the illegal practice of selling diesel of compromised quality.
This comes after the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) confirmed that 70 filling stations across the country were found to be selling diesel of compromised quality – often with paraffin as the mixing agent as there are no taxes charged on it.
The department said the names or locations of the filling stations would not be made available yet as they consulted their legal teams in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popi Act).
DMRE’s director of fuel pricing mechanism, Robert Maake, said since the stations had been informed and issued with compliance notices for selling diesel of compromised quality, “some of them have taken remedial action” to comply.
And while no criminal cases have been opened, DMRE has taken corrective steps against the contravening filling stations after laboratory testing was done and diesel of compromised quality found.
“According to the Petroleum Product Act, there is a procedure you follow where a non-compliance notice is issued and they are given 14 days to respond with remedial action. If the remedial action is not done, a final notice is issued and we start the process of cancelling your licence. If any station challenges our action taken, it results in the matter (being) taken to court and there they can face a fine of up to R1m or 12 months’ imprisonment,” said Maake.
He said while they would want to identify the stations so consumers don’t suffer vehicle damage, the department appealed to motorists to “look for the biggest indicator where the price is too good to be true”.
“There are four stations in the Western Cape, but we are not allowed to publish them yet as we are still waiting for feedback from our legal team to ensure we do not contravene the Popi Act. However, if motorists or customers suspect or have a concern about the quality of diesel pumped at a station, they can go to our DMRE offices with information from a filling station. The inspector can tell you if the station is on the list or not,” said Maake.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe had previously warned distributors against the illegal practice and said they would face “immediate closure and prosecution”.
Aware of the dangers of mixing fuels, industry role-players have called for the identification of the stations.
The spokesperson for Shell, Pam Ntaka, said: “Shell Downstream South Africa (Pty) Ltd (SDSA) is aware of the announcement made by DMRE.
To date, SDSA has not received a notice from DMRE of any of its sites who have received such a warning. Additionally, we are not aware of any SDSA franchisees who have directly been issued with such a warning.
“We can confirm that at SDSA we conduct regular fuel audits at our franchised service stations. SDSA will continue to conduct these tests to ensure the quality of all our products.”
The spokesperson for bpSA, Hamlet Morule, said they had not received any warnings from the DMRE linked to the 70 service stations.
“bpSA conducts quality assurance exercises/testing to mitigate against compromised quality and to ensure that our products meet defined standards and specifications,” said Morule.
Sasol spokesperson Matebello Motloung said they “do not condone any practices that deviate from the legally and regulated stipulation for the sale of fuel products”.
“No Sasol franchise-owned filling station has been issued with a warning. In the unlikely event where a sample is deemed off-specification, immediate remediation actions are performed on the site in question and a formal investigation to determine the root cause is initiated.
“Sasol has remote volume monitoring which flags any potential deviation, which is immediately investigated and remediated.
These practices deter any potential fraudulent actions,” she said. Fuel Retailers Association (FRA) CEO Reggie Sibiya said thorough investigations must be done.
“All major oil companies receive a product delivered by distributors or suppliers contracted with the oil major. So if in that list of 70 we have such brands, one would have to first investigate if the delivery came through the contracted distributor and, if so, the oil company must take responsibility to investigate how their contracted distributor or supplier has delivered sub-standard fuel as the fuel retailer received the product.
“(For) independent brands, the supplier of that product to the independent retailers must be investigated and held accountable.
“The FRA has for years been calling on DMRE to deal head-on with any form of illegal trading while it was still mushrooming to avoid a situation where it gets out of hand – the state the industry is in now,” said Sibiya.