The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has warned the producers of and dealers in Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) of an impending crackdown on substandard products following a survey that revealed gross violations of the laws.
The 2020 UNBS market survey covered 35 outlets and more than 500 gas cylinders in Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso districts.
It shows that 35 percent of the LPG importers, owners cylinder filling plants, LPG outlets, and dealers are violating the Weights and Measures (Sale and Labelling of Goods) rules 2007 of Statutory Instrument No. 36 2007.
The survey followed complaints from the public about the under-filling of cylinders, which leaves the consumers cheated because they get less than what they actually pay for according to the UNBS.
It also comes at a time of increasing usage of cooking gas as Ugandans respond to the campaign by the government and fuel companies to tame the use of firewood and charcoal in homesteads and institutions.
The survey revealed that most dealers were mislabelling their cylinders, or not labeling them at all, according to the UNBS Legal Metrologist, Franklin Mucunguzi.
The LPG standards and the Weights and Measures rules and other Statutory Instruments provide that the name and address of the manufacturer of the goods should be indicated.
Where the goods are not prepackaged by the manufacturer, the particulars of the person responsible for the packing should be indicated.
Clause 7 of the Uganda Standard US 971:2019 Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG) -Specification requires the LPG cylinders to be clearly labeled with the supplier’s name or brand name or trademark, and the product name ‘LPG.’ It also states that the type of LPG, the batch or lot number, net weight in Kilograms as well as precautionary or safety statements should also appear on the labels, according to Standards Officer, Fahad Suuna.
One of the vital revelations in the study was that many dealers and users of gas did not know that the gas and even the cylinder have expiry dates.
The expiry date of the cylinder refers to the date on which the cylinder should be taken for inspection.
Apart from the labels wearing off, there is the danger of the cylinder body becoming weaker or even the accessories like the valve becoming loose.
According to Mucunguzi, this is one of the main causes of gas explosions in Uganda and the other is mismanagement.
According to the UNBS, a number of declarations on the gas cylinders are not explained especially the weight is never indicated whether it is the Net weight, Tare weight, or Gross weight. The standards provide that each company should be consistent with the way it marks or labels its products.
“Several companies mark inconsistently with some labeling on top of the gas cylinders, others on the handles and on the sides of the cylinder which contradicts Rule 8, sub-rule 5(a) of the Weights and Measures Sale and Labelling of Goods Rule no. 36 of 2007,” the survey revealed.
The Deputy Executive Director, Compliance, John Paul Musimami said that all the people along the value chain should “take corrective action as soon as possible, ahead of the enforcement of the quality standards by UNBS, which is expected to commence with immediate effect.”
He says both the consumer and the dealer are supposed to be protected by regulation.
The Standards body has also warned against what they called ‘cross filling, a common practice where gas cylinders of one company are refilled with products of a different company.
This is piracy and illegal as it distorts the market and violates the rights of the consumer on preference and choice. Mucunguzi says that this also makes it difficult for the regulators to track the product in case the need arises.
Henry Kimera, the Executive Director, Consumer Education Trust welcomes the step taken by UNBS to enforce the standards, saying that many people do not know the effects of LPG on health and the environment if misused.
On the way forward, the UNBS proposes among others that the weights and measures of LPG cylinders be standardized so that there are similar categories of weights.
Mucunguzi says that some weights are too close to the known common ones for an ordinary consumer to tell apart and so they end up getting confused