Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ministry is capricious, contradictory with 24-hour rulings

Now, I am no big fan of oil companies and petrol stations, but I feel the Ministry has overstepped its authority in this “must open 24 hours” issue.

Since these are private businesses (not owned by government), the Ministry has no authority to dictate their opening hours. If it can do this, what is to stop the Ministry from dictating the opening hours for any other businesses? For example, it may order all clinics to open 24 hours. For that matter, why not order all mechanics and car workshops to open 24 hours?

I watched the press conference on Tv3 news last night where Datuk Shafie threatened unspecified sanctions against the petrol dealers. When pressed by reporters for details, he only said something like “They know what will happen to them.”

This gives me the impression that the Ministry has no legal standing in this matter. Plus, Datuk Shafie comes off as capricious, and the Ministry appears to be making up rules as it goes along.

Worse, the Ministry’s stance on petrol stations staying open 24 hours is a direct contradiction to its stance on hypermarkets’ opening hours.

Recall that this is the same ministry (and the same minister) which, in 2004, barred hypermarkets from opening 24 hours. This, despite protests from consumers, and appeals from the hypermarkets who actually want to open 24 hours (unlike these petrol kiosk operators).

One excuse that the Ministry is using is that petrol is a “controlled item” or “essential item”. But aren’t there a lot more controlled items sold in hypermarkets? Don’t I have a right to buy sugar, flour and chicken at any time of the day or night? Isn’t food more of an essential item than petrol?


Mudasir said...

First of all you are looking at this the wrong way. Petrol stations do have the right to not operate 24 hours, however when licensed and with contractual agreements with Petrol cuppliers, like Petronas, BP, Shell, etc. These dealers have agreed to be open for certains hours a day depending on their locations. To suddenly hold a meeting among dealers and to "act out" or to use their collective power to pressure other parties, namely Malaysians as a whole to interfere and accept all their demands (custoemr paying for the credit card fees, etc.) they are not only manipulating a market but they are breaking their contracts with Petrol suppliers, who on the other hand had also had a contract (being licensed to operate in Malaysia) with the goverment (us, the people). This is a simple case of the dealers using what is essential commodity to pressure or may i say to break laws.

What you are forgetting is that, all parties have agreed to operational guides and laws regarding operating petrol stations.

So to now suddenly back off is not our problem but the dealers. It is a free market and im sure once their licenced revoked there would be 100 more inline to take over the station.

Chan Lee Meng said...

True, if the contracts stipulated opening hours, then they should not be allowed to back out.

Like you said, there are many others willing to take over. Isn't running a petrol station almost like having a licence to print money?

As a side note, 24-hour stations are a relatively new development in Malaysia.

As recently as 15 years ago, very few stations were open 24 hours. In fact, this is still the case in smaller towns and rural areas.

I recall rushing to fill petrol a few times, just before the stations closed at 10pm.