New Delhi: A car owner unsuspectingly gifts a surcharge of 2.5% to a private bank on every purchase of petrol or diesel from a retail outlet of Hindustan Petroleum just because the oil company insists that the dealer install that particular bank’s credit card swipe machines at the petrol pump.
The customer pays this surcharge because the oil company enters into an agreement with the private bank and forces dealers to install credit card swipe machines of that bank and remove those of others.
The Competition Appellate Tribunal has now come to the rescue of consumers by quashing the agreement between Hindustan Petroleum and ICICI Bank, terming it as restrictive. The tribunal bench headed by Justice V S Sirpurkar also imposed a cost of Rs 2 lakh on the oil PSU and the private bank for entering into such an “unfair” agreement.
Pune-based Federation of All Maharashtra Petrol Dealers Association through advocate Neela Gokhale told the tribunal, “If the customer uses any other credit card, then he pays 2.5% more than the actual cost of petrol. This is because of Hindustan Petroleum’s decision to monopolize the services of ICICI Bank at the retail outlets by removing from the field the competition by other banks.” HP’s counsel could not refute Gokhale’s statement.
“Insistence on the part of HP in giving exclusive status to ICICI Bank terminal is, in our opinion, completely unjustified,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal said, “The result of insistence on part of HP would therefore be an insistence vis-a-vis consumers to use ICICI Bank card only in order to escape the excess payment of 2.5%. That would deprive him a facility to use other credit cards at any other terminal of other banks. This will also result in denying an opportunity to the outlet dealer to transact with any other bank even if such transaction is beneficial for him and therefore amounts to a restrictive trade practice.”
The federation said it would be satisfied if the oil PSU did not insist on removal of credit card swipe machines of other banks from petrol pumps. But HP surprised the tribunal by refusing to accept this offer and insisted on finding some other solution.
“The direction clearly amounts to restrictive trade practices which under the MRTP Act would be deemed to be prejudicial to the public interest… HP shall cease and desist from insisting upon (dealers) to remove all other banking terminals at the site of retail outlets.”
source: Times of India