The ministry also asked the wholesalers to strengthen checkups and supervision over the dealers, as well as binding clauses in contracts with dealers, to hold them responsible for the products they sell in order to stop them from buying from fuel of dubious origin and quality.
The wholesalers should also conduct regular checkups on the dealers to detect whether or not they violate the contract, said Phan Minh Tan, head of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Science and Technology.
According to Dien, a fuel dealer in the southern province of Binh Duong, the contract between a dealer and the wholesaler has a clause stipulating that the wholesaler be responsible for the fuel quality prior to the time it is pumped into the dealer’s tanks.
Once the fuel is in the dealer’s tanks, any substandard products detected are the dealer’s fault.
The dealer will be penalized by authorities, as well as by the wholesaler for violating the contract, said Dien.
Meanwhile, the CEO of a fuel wholesaler suggested that whenever a fuel product with poor quality is detected, authorities should trace it back to the transporting and distributing process, to find the real violators and enact strict sanctions on them.
However, Nguyen Xuan Son, CEO of PV Oil, said wholesalers are not authorized by law to conduct checkups or inspections.
“We are not allowed to raid the dealers and ask for fuel samples for tests as could the market management or product quality testing agencies,” said Son.
“We cannot ask dealers to provide receipts and invoices of their products to see where they have sourced the fuel from, either.”
Thus, PV Oil has recently asked its people to disguise themselves as consumers to buy fuel from suspected dealers for quality tests.
“In case a dealer breaches regulations, we will stop supplying, and end the contract.”
Insiders call for law amendment
According to decree no 84, which manages fuel trading activities, wholesalers are to be held for jointly responsible in case their dealers are found selling substandard products.
However, a chief official from Petrolimex said the decree should be more specific as to how much, and of which part, wholesalers should be responsible for, rather than the general term of “joint responsibility .”
For their part, fuel dealers also called for an amendment to the decree, regarding the fuel sample keeping of wholesalers.
In cases when the fuel is not adulterated on route from the depot to dealer tanks, they will be fully responsible for the substandard products, dealers said.
However, a dealer of Saigon Petro said in fact, fuel wholesalers are only responsible for the fuel quality for seven days after the samples are taken.
This means in case substandard gasoline is detected, the wholesalers only agree to provide the samples for tests if they were taken no more than seven days previously.
“It usually takes us two weeks to sell around 20,000 liters of gasoline. Supposing the sample is taken on the very first day of the month, we will be held fully responsible for any substandard petrol detected between the 8th and 15th day, while the wholesaler will not be involved in the case.”