Petrol station owners are planning to take legal action against Enemed, claiming the company abused its position when it selected 10 stations from where super unleaded fuel will be sold.
Speaking to The Malta Independent, Carlo Cini, representative of the Petrol Station Owners’ Association, said that the other petrol stations will suffer discrimination if the plans go ahead for this fuel to be distributed as from 1 February, as adverts appearing in the media have shown.
In these adverts, Enemed are promoting a new ‘Super Unleaded Petrol – RON98’ which the company plans to provide to 10 particular petrol stations.
The Petrol Station Owners’ Association’s objection is with the fact that Enemed chose only 10 stations from where consumers can buy the product. Mr Cini said that offering such fuel to only 10 petrol stations is “not fair”, adding that “they should give to whoever wants it, and if you don’t then you’re creating a monopoly.”
Enemed Chairman Kevin Chircop, in response, said that the selection criteria for this pilot project were objective.
When asked how the stations were chosen, Mr Cini replied that the company told them they chose five which have just been newly renovated and another five based on their selling capabilities. When asked whether the latter five are actually the top sellers, Mr Cini replied “We don’t have the information to back up the claim, but I am highly doubtful.”
The immediate step that the Association is taking is to file for prohibitory injunction, which they hope will stop Enemed from carrying out its plan. “All we want is that they give this new fuel to whoever wants it. We want it to be the petrol station’s choice” insisted Mr Cini.
“They can’t discriminate when we are about 80 petrol stations in these 60 miles. This creates unfair competition.”
The chosen petrol stations, according to the adverts, are Gaffarena petrol station in Qormi, Pit Stop Service Station in Attard, Falzon Service Station in Birkirkara, France Motor Service in Fgura, VC Service Station in Gharghur, J Micallef Service Station in Rabat and Zejtun, Wembley Service Station in Swieqi, Lourdes Service Station in Zabbar and Arry Hompesch Service Station, also in Zabbar.
Enemed Executive Chairman Kevin Chircop, when contacted by the Malta Independent, explained that this is currently a pilot project.
“This brand of petrol is not targeted for everyone, but rather a segment of the market, high-end cars,” he explained. The ten stations were chosen as part of a pilot project, he said, in order to get the best possible market research, in terms of how much fuel Enemed should purchase etc, and would eventually open up to all stations. He stressed that fuel has a shelf-life and with government being the ultimate shareholder, it doesn't make sense importing too little or too much of this fuel. "We need to test it's popularity first".
He explained that producing and storing this fuel costs a lot of money, thus the reason for the pilot project. “We would receive feedback more quicklyfrom ten stations, than from 80 stations,” he said.
The ten stations were chosen based on two criteria. "The first was that the stations were in full compliance with the 2020 plan that stations had to submit in 2013. There were five stations that fell under this criteria. The 2nd criteria saw the top 5 petrol sellers approached".
“The criteria were so objective that we don’t even have a geographical spread, with no stations located north of Rabat. Secondly, there are three of the chosen stations between Fgura and Zabbar, so from a business point of view it doesn’t make sense”.
He explained that one of the stations chosen is actually owned by a competitor for diesel importation and some stations that are completely loyal to Enemed were not selected due to the criteria.
He explained that on January 7, he spoke with Paul Abela from the GRTU and told him of the planned pilot project and the criteria. “They told me to contact Carlo Cini, the petrol stations representative. He wasn’t fully content but it stopped there. We didn’t receive any feedback from them”.
He stressed that had feedback been received by the GRTU before the marketing campaign launched, they would have postponed everything and tried to find a solution.
“Two days ago, we were contacted by the GRTU, saying that other stations were calling, complaining about the scheme, citing discrimination. This, four days prior to the fuel going on the market. They told us they will probably file for a prohibitary injunction and there could be a petrol strike. Telling us four days prior is unfair. The consumers would suffer from this”.
He said that Enemed brought in enough of this fuel for 10 stations and not 80, however assured that once the pilot scheme ends and all the necessary data, relating to the amounts sold etc is made, then it would be made available to all petrol stations.
“It’s the end-user that matters”.