With reporting from Heba Fahmy
More than half a dozen petrol stations in Qatar have been penalized for issuing fraudulent invoices to customers, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has said.
Consumer protection inspectors found 11 cases of price manipulation at eight unnamed fuel stations across the country, the ministry said in a statement yesterday.
In some cases, station attendants issued receipts recording only the total price of the petrol, but not the amount of fuel pumped. Other invoices stated that more petrol was pumped than had been recorded on the fuel meter.
The ministry said its inspectors found that in some cases, attendants had a “deal” with drivers who were using their employers’ cars, which enabled the driver to charge their boss for more petrol than they actually got, and keep the difference.
The MEC has issued a warning to all petrol station owners to more closely monitor their employees’ actions or risk being temporarily shut down.
— وزارة التجارة والصناعة (@MOCIQatar) January 11, 2016
Translation: The Ministry warns gas stations against manipulating bills, and issues 11 violations.
Citing Qatar’s consumer protection law (No. 8 of 2008), the ministry said in its circular that all customer sales invoices must be dated and have basic information including the unit of items sold and the price per unit, as well as a signature or seal from the supplier.
“The Ministry of Economy and Commerce, out of its keenness to protect customers’ rights, will impose strict action against anyone found to have been involved in or participated in the manipulation of bills,” the MEC warned in its letter to fuel station owners.
Regular spot-checks will be undertaken to ensure compliance with the law.
Repeat offenders could face penalties including temporary closure of the station, publication of the closure notices in national newspapers and notices displayed on its premises.
Legal action may also be taken against petrol station owners who are found to have committed fraud against customers, the ministry added.
Under Article 18 of the consumer protection law, jail terms of up to two years and maximum fines of QR1 million can be imposed on those found in violation of the legislation.
Consumers can report offenses by calling the ministry’s hotline number at 16001 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, as fuel prices have recently gone up in most Gulf states apart from Qatar, the Advisory (Shura) Council is reviewing a draft law that proposes to make the smuggling of petrol and diesel a more strictly punishable offense, QNA said.
Fuel is heavily subsidized in Qatar, with diesel costing QR1.5 a liter while in nearby UAE, the December price was Dh1.83/liter.
Four years ago, Woqod announced it had busted a diesel-smuggling racket that involved smuggling the fuel from water tankers into nearby GCC countries, where it was resold for double the price.
The diesel was also being sold on the black market to contracting companies in Qatar. Qatari companies can buy diesel at a rate of 70 dirhams a liter, but joint venture companies pay double the price (QR1.40 per liter). Foreign companies pay even more – more than QR3 per liter.