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#399874 - 02/09/11 03:46 PM The Un-Metered Butane Tank
Marty Offline
When you go to the gas station and fill up your car - you know more or less how much gas you need by the fuel gauge on your instrument panel.

And you can see that gas is going into your tank because the gauge is moving. It sounds pretty elementary - but why is it that there is no such indication on your butane tank?

Those who have the tank delivered at home have no idea how much butane they are getting - and are just relying basically on the goodwill of the butane vendor.

And what about when you go personally and fill up your cylinder - how can you know that you're getting the true value? That's what we wondered in the middle of all this talk about butane standards - and so today we did an interesting experiment: we took an empty 50 pound cylinder, made sure it was empty, weighed it empty and then went to fill it at a local butane vendor.

At the end it should have weighed in at the dead weight, plus 50 pounds, right? So did it? Well, our answer will stun you, so make sure you tune in tomorrow night to see our full investigation…

Channel 7


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#399961 - 02/10/11 03:48 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Big Butane Scam Unveiled

Butane, or Liquid Petroleum Gas, it made all the headlines two weeks ago - when importers were clamoring for industry-wide standards. And they got it. But while they have their standards, what about the consumer?

We're sure you've noticed, your butane tank does not have a gauge on it…so how do you know when it's full? And even when the gas company says it's full, really how do you know they aren't just saying that?

The fact is, you don't. Butane users - and that extends to every single household in Belize - are left to take the word of butane companies, to trust that they have filled your tank.

And those who don't trust can take their tanks to the depot to see for themselves that the gas company puts in 11 gallons of butane in a 50 pound tank, and 22 gallons in a 100 pound tank - those are the specifications exacted by the bureau of standards.

But then, the Bureau doesn't check, calibrate or certify their meters - so again, even the vigilant consumer is left at the mercy of the butane company.

This issue - this absolute lack of certainty - has been weighing on our minds for some time now - and with the help of a few friends - we figured out how to determine exactly how much butane is being put in our tank.

It's a 7 news investigation and what we found, shocked us:…..

Our story begins here on the seafront where I took this 50 pound empty cylinder to make sure it's completely empty.

I opened the valve and emptied it into the open air and right there on the seafront whatever residue was left wafted away.

We then loaded it up and took it to the business location of a friend where there's an industrial electronic scale.

It weighed in at 41.6 pounds . And then with a hidden camera we went to the BWEL Depot on Sarstoon Street and filled it up. And there it is, the meter running, right up to 11 gallons which is what the bureau of standards says should go into a 50 pound tank.

We then took it back to our industrial location where it weighed in at 85.2 pounds.

Now, remember, we started out at 41.6 pounds. Add 50 to that and it should be 91.6 pounds, but it's at 85.2 which means that they shorted us 6.4 pounds, a value of about eight dollars - which means we paid 63 dollars, but got the value of 55 dollars - and that's because we took it to the Depot to see for ourselves that it was properly filled!

So then we wondered what if we tried these hundred pound tanks - which we bought new and had them pick them up at our house - where there's no one watching to see how many gallons are put in?

First, we weighed the tanks empty - this one was 74.2 pounds - and the other one was 73.4

We wrote the tank weights on the bottom of the tanks to avoid confusion - took it to a friend's home on Dean street and called the two importers in the city, BWEL and Gas Tomza to order pick-up refills. They came within half an hour, took the tanks, took them back to their depot supposedly to fill them up without any supervision by the consumer, and brought the tanks back quite promptly as evening fell.

We took those two tanks back to our scales to weigh for the big verdict.

First, the Tomza tank - it started out empty at 73.4 pounds - relining it on the scale now - to weigh in at 143.8 pounds.

Do the math and that's only 70.4 pounds - that means we got shorted 30 pounds, a value of about forty dollars from the 126 dollars we paid.

On the BWEL tank, which started out at 74.6, it weighed in at 162.4, 87.8 pounds, about 12 pounds short of the 100 that should be in there - a value of about thirteen dollars.

We checked with the bureau of standards which confirmed that every 100 pound cylinder should have in 100 pounds of liquid petroleum gas, the same, respectively, for 50 pound and 25 pound cylinders. That is what the price formula is based on and what you are paying for.

We use the term Liquid Petroleum Gas because your cylinder at home contains a mix of butane and propane, and each of those chemicals have a different weight per gallon.

But all that is irrelevant to you the consumer, the standard is that you pay for 50 pounds you should get 50 pounds, if you don't, you're being cheated, simple as that.

The Bureau of Standards did not have comment today - and seemed to want to wait to see the story. They advised us to make sure our scale is accurate. We invited them to calibrate it. But for the record, it is an industrial, two thousand pound scale, which costs five thousand dollars and it is in daily usage.

We called both BWEL and Gas Tomza for comment this morning at 8:00 and again this afternoon at 3:00 pm. We left explicit messages saying why we wanted comment and what our story was about. The manager for Gas Tomza did not call back while the manager for BWEL Leonel Reyes, called us after 5:00. We explained the story to him and invited him to come for comment even after 5:30 and he has not returned our call. We will avail those companies of whatever opportunity is required for them to respond in whatever way we see fit.

And we will urge them to respond, because our investigation continues and tomorrow we'll have an equally stunning report with the testimonial of one industrial user who has proof of the error in the butane meter on the gas trucks. What's more, the big companies have basically conceded to him that their meters are very wrong and have agreed to charge him by a different formula…..

Channel 7


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#400048 - 02/11/11 03:39 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Big Butane Scam Day 2, More Ugly Revelations

If you are a butane user - and who isn't? - by tonight you should know that your butane company is probably cheating you, big time.

Last night, with an elementary but precise test we showed you how there are significant, even massive disparities in the volume of butane you pay for and what you actually get.

Very simply put, every single day, consumers are being ripped off by butane meters that render inaccurate readings and by companies that don't fill your tank.

It's an area of zero regulation; the bureau of standards does not check the meters at the butane companies, and your butane tank doesn't have a gauge, so who's to say how much they are putting in there?

But what about those who do have gauges? Well you might be surprised to know that many of them flatly refuse to pay for what is metered - because it is wrong - and instead they pay for what their gauge shows. And the butane companies don't protest, they agree!

But one industrial user, the owner of Belize Dry Cleaners, who does pay by his gauge and not their meter, said he couldn't stand by anymore and just silently watch while the everyday citizen got shafted by butane companies. So he's speaking up tonight and blowing a very big whistle. Here's his story:

Jules Vasquez Reporting
Lascelle Arnold - who is the largest volume purchaser of butane in the city with these two massive tanks, one a thousand pound, the other 500. He buys about fifteen thousand dollars worth of butane a month and 3 years ago, he figured something was wrong

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"Over the last 3 years we had a problem with the amount of money that we are paying for the gas. With the production we have I figured that some was wrong."

That something he says is the meter on the butane trucks that supply him.

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"I start to investigate for myself and I realized that there was a major problem. And the issue is that the meter that they have on the trucks give you one reading, and then all the bulk tanks have a meter on it that tells you the percentage of gas that is in the tank."

He's talking about these gauges on his two industrial tanks - which indicate the percentage of fuel he has stored.

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"So for instance if I have a 1,000 gallons tank and I have a 500 gallon tank, so if I have 50 percent in my tank and I put in 50% gas in a 1,000 gallon tank, I suppose to have 500 gallons and the truck supposed to read 500 gallons on their meter."

But it doesn't, it always reads more - much more.

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"The reading on the truck is 570 gallons just to give you an instance of gas. When we check the gauge on our tank, it registered 500 gallons, so for that 500 gallons that is registered on my tank, the company is charging me for 70 gallons more. In dollars - you are looking at over three hundred and forty odd dollars more they are billing me for that fill."

And he knows it's the meter on the truck and not his gauge on the tank because.

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"We had emptied out a thousand gallon tank completely, drained it and cleaned out the tank...whatever...and we get a full load to fill it up to 90% because you don't full the tank up to 100%. Either 90% - 95% for expansion or whatever. The truck actually gave us 1,025 gallons at 90%, so I say how the hell we could put 1,025 gallons into a thousand tank at 90%. At 90% we suppose to get 900 gallons not 1,025 gallons and that (difference) is equivalent - at today's price - of $550."

Jules Vasquez
"Which you would have had to pay extra for butane which you did not receive."

Arnold who fills up every week to fuel his long line of dryers and ironing machines - wouldn't stand for it and called on his suppliers:

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"I called them in my office and I sit with them and showed them that something is wrong here and immediately they agreed to charge me based on my meter and not on their meter."

Jules Vasquez
"You must have encountered some type of resistance, some type of argument. You must have had to bring in a lawyer for them to say 'well ok right is right, we are going with your gauge.'"

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"Within 2 minutes they agreed to use my measurement. Within two minutes. I deal with all the companies in Belize. So we went back one year that we were dealing with this company and when we tally up the difference that they charge us for one year it was over $18,000.00."

Jules Vasquez
"$18,000.00 you had over paid?"

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"$18,000.00 within one year. Based on that meter that was on that truck that was wrong. I said no, this will not go this way, so I called the company, I called the manager and I told him what was the issue and he bring his accountant with him, and I had my records and we sit down in the office along with my manager and my accountant, we sit down and we went through it month by month and show the disparity what we paid and what we received and the difference and we had a full spread sheet for one year. Jules I am not telling you any lie. With the next breath they agreed to pay back the $18,000.00."

Jules Vasquez
"Wait, I am not sure I understand. You didn't have to get attorneys involved, you didn't have to........"

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"Didn't have to get advice, I didn't have to be defiant or threaten or anything."

They even signed to it in this Memorandum of Understanding - at Arnold's request we have blocked out the name of the company - they agreed to a schedule to pay him back in gas

Jules Vasquez
"So they sign an agreement accepting that they had defrauded you to the tune of eighteen thousand plus dollars."

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"And over five thousand gallons of gas."

Jules Vasquez
"Although again that was meter and receipted."

Receipts like this - again - at his request we have concealed the name of the company - which have a printout showing that he has received 832.5 gallons and $4,162.00 dollars are meaningless to Belize dry cleaners - as the handwritten parts show, they paid $3,800 for 760 gallons.

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"Say for instance we get 832 gallons, actually that's what I suppose to pay for. When we did our percentage it was 760 gallons. So we write those information on that receipt."

Jules Vasquez
"But that's not even worth the paper it's printed on. It's just printed as a formality. For jokes, because you don't pay that and when you get your statement from them, that figure which is on the receipt is not reflected."

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"No."

If you're shaking your head, you should - for big buyers like Belize Dry Cleaners you should, the companies accept that their meters are just plain wrong and go with whatever the gauge says.

Jules Vasquez "You said over the years you dealt with all the companies and you have found a......"

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"Consistency with their meters [Jules Vasquez - all the meters are wrong, all the meters that we dealt with, so my policy at the Dry Cleaners is to make sure that we only pay by percentage that goes into our tank."

This is a record of just the past two months showing the disparity between what was metered by the Gas Company and what Dry Cleaners actually paid for. The left side of the paper show the gallons on the butane truck's meter, and the right side shows how much dry cleaners gauge reflects. They pay only for the percentage, and the total difference in just two months is equivalent to four thousand one hundred and ninety three dollars that the company was overcharged and simply did not pay, in agreement with the butane company.

Of course, we consumers don't have a gauge on our tanks we are just straight out defrauded. As we showed you yesterday a 50 pound tank from BWEL that we took to fill ourselves was 6.4 pounds short, while two hundred pound cylinders that were picked up at a home were also short. The one sent to Gas Tomza was an incredible 30 pounds short, and the one sent to BWEL was 12 pounds short.

Arnold who buys from all these companies said he had to speak out:

Jules Vasquez
"The whole game is rigged."

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"The whole game is rigged and the thing is that one of the things that amaze me is that if this is happening to me where we have all this accounting and everything in place. Could you imagine the household person who just send their tanks in a truck? The reason I am talking out like this is because this affects every single person in the country of Belize. The thing that really got to me for me to speak out is that whenever you hear butane going up and they squeeze the government to take off the taxes to raise the price to another $4 - $5 and in that same token they are stealing, they are stealing $40 from a 100 gallon tank. That is the part that really made me have to speak out because here is the government not getting the tax they are supposed to get because the government want to lower the price for the consumer so the only thing the government could do is take off as much tax as they could."

Jules Vasquez
"Which they have. It's down now to just the environmental tax."

Lascelle Arnold, Owner - Bze Dry Cleaners
"Which is 1%. But then these same people that is fighting the government to take out the tax so that they could give a cheaper price and they could get an increase in their price is still taking away from the same people that they are serving. You can't sleep because that is happening. "

Indeed, the revelations of the last few days have left all our heads shaking at widespread, unregulated fraud. But BWEL - which is the country's largest supplier - was shaking its head at 7news. Though they did not return our calls to grant an interview during working hours yesterday - and called after 5:00 when we still said yes, they could come over even so close to deadline - today they issued a press release and held a press conference to say their company name has been unfairly slandered.

Best part is the release - which makes all kinds of conspiratorial accusations - was not sent to Channel 7, and neither were we invited to their press conference.

Of course, we still got the release, and still attended the press conference, where Country Manager Leonel Reyes first read the two page release - here are excerpts:…

Leonel Reyes, Country Manager - BWEL
"In light of Channel 7 news clip aired on February 9th, 2011, Wednesday yesterday evening. It is very obvious to our company that members of the so called LPG Association have in full gear a defamation campaign against the integrity of our company. Firmly believing that the media has been manipulated by the desperation of our competitors to smear the good standing of our company, we in a clean corporate conscience address and point out the following; one; BWEL offers to one and all the exact amount of product ordered and paid by each of our customers countrywide. Three; we invite any independent entity to verify our operational standards, quantitatively or qualitatively at any of our depots countrywide to remove any misleading perceptions that may have been planted from deceptive media reporting aired last night Wednesday February 9th. Four; the news clip aired on Wednesday February 9th is another attempt by competitors to discredit BWEL in the eyes of our customers. Five; any investigating reporting would have given our company a chance to respond to the allegations in a timely and fair manner before serious slanderous allegations against another entity."

"Question? Why were only two out of several other LPG outlets sampled? Why not perform a complete and open investigation involving all parties before making allegations? What about the integrity of the scale that was used in the measurements? We would like to further state that given the pictures appearing on the news clip we have serious concerns about the direct involvement of one if not more of our competitors. Eight; we out rightly reject these irresponsible journalistic allegations made and challenge any independent authority to carry out verification that they may consider necessary."

And while Reyes would have wished for us to nicely call him and the Bureau of Standards, that would have denied us the element of surprise which was precisely the point of the story, that it was a spot inspection, and it was deliberately done in a clandestine manner to make sure it was a direct simulation of the consumer's experience. And we got just what the consumer gets, a few pounds and dollars less.

And while we have given the BWEL managers equal time to freely cast aspersions on our report - as they are expected to do - we completely stand by the absolute veracity of what we reported.

That veracity was confirmed today when the Bureau of Standards agreed to come and test the industrial scale that we used for our story which is at Belize Dry Cleaners. It was certified to be completely accurate; in fact it records an error of just one pound at weights in excess of 500 pounds; all the butane cylinders were under two hundred pounds, thus the error margin is zero. So, with that, any suggestion of inaccuracy can be set aside.

That certification of the scale, which just came this evening - kinda took some of the wind out of the BWEL assault when they opened the floor for questions. Here's some of that back and forth:…

Jules Vasquez
"How do you account for the discrepancy of 12 pounds on the hundred pound cylinder? It was twelve point something and 6.4 on the 50 pound cylinder. How is that discrepancy accounted for?"

Jose Mai, Regional Dorector
"I believe Jules; it is not up to BWEL to account for it. I was unaware that the Bureau of Standards came in today. I don't know if Leonel knew but if they did an independent verification which is what we are stating here in our release and we are inviting the Bureau or anybody else."

Jules Vasquez
"They did a verification of the scale yes."

Jose Mai, Regional Dorector
"Yes correct. We would still have preferred if the Bureau had contacted us and then we accompany them to witness the measurement because in the news clip that was published on Channel 7, that is where we have a concern with that we would have hoped that we would have been contacted and then we together would have gone and did the measurement and then there was no area or space for any differences or allegations or discrepancies on either side."

Jules Vasquez
"How does it make sense that the media Channel 7 would be manipulated or bought or whatever by your competitors when one of your competitors has a huge discrepancy, Tomza's discrepancy. Tomza's was 30 pounds off and so how does that fit in to your conspiracy theory that it's your competitors manipulating Channel 7?"

Jose Mai, Regional Dorector
"Because Jules I know that this came at a complete surprise to us."

Leonel Reyes, Country Manager - BWEL
"If I knew that your story was based on BWEL, I would have taken you right there and then to the plant and told you 'let's measure it right now in front of me' I didn't appreciate Jules to be quite honest the manner you approached with your video camera and so forth. I thought you were in Botes again. We don't have soldiers at our Sarstoon plant patrolling who goes in or who goes out. So you should have come to me, come to the office and told me 'Mr. Reyes, let's go right now there and then. I don't know what happened when you measured the tank from the plant and took it wherever you took it to measure it. You should have done everything, do a thorough investigation, brought Bureau of Standards and then I would have said, 'Fine, you are right Jules, perhaps we have a malfunctioning equipment at our plant or something' but you only targeted two companies and that's where I figure your news clip was a bit erroneous, fallacious."

Jules Vasquez
"You are criticizing my test because I didn't go through all these procedures and write you a letter and get Bureau of Standards. Who is checking you? At least somebody checks my thing - but that's a comment - my question is I paid $128.00 for your fuel to be delivered yesterday, I got only 88 pounds. Will you reimburse me the difference which is roughly $16.52?"

Leonel Reyes, Country Manager - BWEL
"Because of the manner that you carried out your investigation I cannot say I will reimburse you the difference of the balance. If you had involved us and an independent party to weigh the stiff together then i would have said Jules, listen I owe you so many pounds. But we weren't involved, you went in there like mission impossible with your camera and so forth."

The BWEL reps admitted that no independent body calibrates their meters. BWEL has invited us to do our tests again tomorrow in their presence, but while we agreed initially only as an act of goodwill - on reflection, we must decline, because we're sure that by the time we get there with the bosses, all will be properly in order. And, for the consumers' sake, we hope that it is.

We tried to get the Bureau of Standards to take a position - and the Director said he would after our scale was certified. He called for us this evening, but we were in that BWEL press conference.

As for the wild, baseless and slightly silly BWEL theory that 7news is somehow working on behalf of their enemies, the fact is we only did our story on Gas Tomza - who they counter intuitively list as an enemy - and BWEL because, again, those are the only two major importers operating in the city.

All versions and aspersions aside for the time being, we'll continue following up on this story….

Channel 7


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#400133 - 02/12/11 04:00 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

PM Barrow: Butane Companies Are “Stealing From Consumers”

For the past two nights we have exposed the fraud being perpetrated daily on consumers by butane companies who don't fill your tanks.

It's been a stunner for all of us, all except for one Butane Company which has maintained its blamelessness and the inscrutable Bureau of Standards, the so-called consumer watchdog which has refused to make any official comment, preferring to play cagey while the consumers they are supposed to protect get ripped off daily.

Well, the head of government, Prime Minister Dean Barrow is not so circumspect; he today called it outright stealing and called on the Bureau Of Standards to act immediately and decisively.

PM Dean Barrow
"This is actually stealing. Actually stealing from the consumers and really it's extremely upsetting, it's extremely disturbing. Government will have to make every effort to put a stop to this sort of thing and to punish in whatever ways are allowed the fact that it has happened and has obviously been happening for a while."

Jules Vasquez
"It has to cause you some level of discomfort knowing that butane is one of the most odious fixed costs of every single household in Belize and that in fact a lot of that cost...the poorest of the poor are being ripped off. "

PM Dean Barrow
"Really the import of what has been revealed is of such significance. I say import but perhaps I should change that, the scandal of what has been exposed really is so disturbing that it would be a crime on top of a crime if nothing were to be done about it. It seems to me that the Bureau of Standards having verified the accuracy of your exercise must act with respect to the findings. For sure it has made me realize that we must urgently provide the resources for the Bureau to acquire the equipment needed for them to monitor now this situation on a continuing basis. But I am not entirely aware of what the legal consequences are for what has been exposed. Whatever the legal/administrative consequences, the Bureau must follow those."

Jules Vasquez
"In terms of people having been systematically and right now are being systematically defrauded. I mean, the consumers must have some right to redress."

PM Dean Barrow
"Absolutely and I am saying that the Bureau would know precisely what is the extent of their authority, what the extent of their remit is, but that something is to be done as a consequence of the expose is undoubted. You can't have what is - as well as being a huge public service - an exposure of wrongdoing which substantiates the fear that consumers have been gypped on a continuing basis for a long time, you can't have that sort of thing come to light, you can't have that sort of thing demonstrated and the government agencies simply stand pat or try to avoid the responsibility of ensuring one: that there is a consequence in terms of the culpability, and, two; there is an effort to ensure that it doesn't happen again."

Jules Vasquez
"In the immediate short term to stop the hemorrhaging that consumers are enduring every day, might it be proposed as an emergency measure to demand that these people simply install scales which can be properly set and calibrated by the Bureau?"

PM Dean Barrow
"That's exactly what I said on the show this morning after Lascelle called in. That that should be fairly easy to do and I think we should do that. I don't underestimate just the fact of the name and shame exercise that Channel 7 has conducted. I suspect that it will be a long time before the suppliers try this sort of foolishness again. There is obviously going to be and already is such a blow back, but since it is clear we can't rely only on that alone you are absolutely correct and I believe we should quick, fast and in a hurry, by way of regulations, insist on the sort of scales being in place in order for the monitoring by the Bureau to be able to take place more effectively."

Jules Vasquez
"Will it inform your future negotiations with these suppliers insofar as they have received the exemptions that you would not even contemplate for fuel. Exempted of every type of tax except for the 1% environmental tax. Will you now take a harder line with them?"

PM Dean Barrow
"Well I think that the Cabinet subcommittee will have to go back and look at the controlled prices that were agreed, the range of control prices that was agreed. i don't want to pre-judge how that exercise will come out but the exercise must take place and you've got to now input this really remarkable discovery and, modest though you are, a discovery in fact that has been produced by Channel 7."

We called Director of The Bureau of Standards Jose Trejo this morning and asked him for an official comment now that his agency has certified the scale we used as 100% accurate for the weight which was tested.

Trejo told us that his CEO had urged him instead to issue a press release. We advised him that we would officially put his office on front page if it did not give an interview on what even the Prime Minister agrees is a scandal.

Trejo promised a release and an interview, but he provided neither and didn't even call us back. So tonight, echoing what the Prime Minister said, we are calling out the Bureau OF Standards: this is a consumer emergency, not a casual revelation. We urge you as well to call the Bureau of Standards hotline at 0 - 800 - 283 - 5587 and demand action if you feel you have been cheated by your butane company.

Channel 7


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#400134 - 02/12/11 04:01 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Butane Importers Forced To Back Up

And today, the representative of the Belize Butane Importers Association Neri Briceno requested an interview to make it plain that the three companies he represents, Belize Gas, western Gas and Zeta Gas are in no way involved in any scam or in setting up the story.

For context, you may recall that yesterday, BWEL's executives made wild, conspiratorial claims that 7News had somehow been co-opted by the Importers Association to make up a story about them.

It's a theory so preposterous we don't think even they really believe it - particularly when a recent member of that association, Gas Tomza was singled out in our story for the biggest violation - shorting our tank by thirty pounds, a value of about 38 dollars.

So, BWEL's theory falls by its own logic, but Briceno wanted to defend his own group by saying - what we already knew every well - that they had nothing to do with our story:….

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"Unless we made some secret pact in our dreams but there is absolutely no kind of collusion. There is no conspiracy to defame any company, there is no kind of under handed-ness, you did an investigation totally on your own and we became cognizant if it when you aired it on the air so we were no part of it whatsoever."

Jules Vasquez
"One of the companies you represent was "pile up in that boil-up" that Mr. Arnold exposed."

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"Well Jules I don't know who were Mr. Arnold's suppliers so I can't comment on that part of it. What I could say is, and based on what my clients have told me is that they welcome any test so anybody can go out there and do the same test that you did or if you want to go and do the same test that you did - you are welcome to go and do it. And they will prove that they are providing the product that they say they are providing and that they are providing in the quantities that they claim they are providing."

Jules Vasquez
"Mr. Neri, I don't want to argue with you and I don't want to disrespect you. One of your clients fill up Mr. Arnold's tank with 1,025 gallons of butane in a 1,000 pound tank and his meter showed 900 gallons, 90%. He started from zero; he had scraped out the tank. That is a matter of fact."

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"Jules We would have to see the documentation on that for me to comment on it."

Jules Vasquez
"I can show you the receipt now."

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"You show me the documentation then I will comment on it and the process that was done. I can't comment on something that I was not physically there and I was not a part of it."

Jules Vasquez
"I will show you a receipt where is says one of your client, one of the people you represent had 832 as the amount of fuel received and his gauge says 760 gallons - his (Arnold's) calculation. A great and tremendous disparity. Mr. Neri, I am giving you a chance. Do you want to change your story?"

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"No, don't change it. Jules as I said, provide the documentation, let us take a look at it, the client will willingly tell me what the situation was and we can explain it. I am sure there is an explanation to it if indeed it was one of the people that I represent."

Jules Vasquez
"But there is no explanation because Mr. Arnold said it himself; he has dealt with all the companies. All of you are doing it. He said all. All is all."

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"I sincerely don't believe that every single LPG company....."

Jules Vasquez
"You don't believe that because they are paying you."

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"No man, this have nothing to do with pay. Jules I have 13 years in this petroleum industry. I think I have a basic understanding at least more than the average person would regarding petroleum matters. And I cannot say that every single LPG Company in this country has been shafting the Belizean public. It's just not possible."

Jules Vasquez
"How is it not? Why would it be not possible? They are doing it, Mr. Arnold has 20 years of buying butane, he has bought from all the companies and he says that all - the word A-L-L. There is no negotiating "all." All. Including one of your clients who sell him butane right now."

Neri Briceno, Belize Butane Importers Association
"Jules we would have to go back probably to what the other company is claiming that there is some mass conspiracy between everybody as they are claiming between me and you that's the only way I'll explain that one."

After the interview, we showed him the documentation, he seemed to be genuinely taken aback and said he had to make a few calls to the people he represents.

Again, as per our arrangement with Lascelle Arnold the business-owner who provided that receipt to us, we cannot show the name of that company. He still buys butane from them, but on his terms - which means the gallon reading on the gas company's meter is completely disregarded and their receipts ignored - with the gas company's full consent.

Channel 7


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#400142 - 02/12/11 04:11 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Butane companies scamming customers countrywide?

Last night Channel 7 news broke a story about liquid petroleum gas (LPG) providers that seemed to scream to high heaven that the companies were ripping off customers nationwide by deliberately under-filling the half tanks and full tanks while charging full price for the gas, normally known as butane.

Channel 7 did their own independent investigation into the amount of fuel being dispensed at the company’s pumps, into the 50-pound and 100-pound cylinders.

Today, one of the companies named in the story, Belize Western Energy Limited (BWEL), countered with a press conference in which they attacked Channel 7, calling the station’s story a “defamation campaign.”

Jules Vasquez, Channel 7’s news director, outlined their investigation, which involved the purchase of two brand new 100-pound tanks, after which BWEL, along with another well-known company, were called to pick up the tanks, fill them and deliver them back to the place from which they had been picked up.

Vasquez’s measurements on a properly calibrated industrial scale, the story said, showed that the BWEL shortchanged him 12 pounds for his first 100-pound tank, which converts to a loss of about $13, which was for gas not received, but paid for.

When the other company delivered its 100-pound tank, there was a discrepancy of about 30 pounds between what was paid for, and the amount of product that was actually inside, which converts to about $40 overcharge, the story said.

As made obvious by the terms used to indicate capacity, a 100-pound tank should be able to hold 100 pounds of butane and the same respectively for 50-pound containers and 25-pound containers. The 25-pound tank was not tested, but a 50-pound tank was, and it, too, lacked the amount of butane mandated by law for the price charged.

In its press release and press conference, BWEL fired back at the report and called it an attempt at defamation. Lionel Reyes, the country manager for BWEL, said that Channel 7 aired “serious slanderous allegations” against BWEL without allowing the company a chance to respond in a “timely and fair” manner.

He also stressed that BWEL cannot be held responsible for any investigation by Channel 7 because they were not done by an independent entity and in the presence of a BWEL employee or executive. BWEL executives summed up the report by Channel 7 news as another attack by the members of the informal association for Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is comprised of the majority of the local importers of butane.

The BWEL officials said that the companies were trying to defame them because they refused to join their movement to “hold the Government of Belize and the Belizean consumer at ransom under the threat of a national strike” to keep the prices high.

Interestingly enough, the Bureau of Standards conducted an investigation on the industrial electronic scale which was used by Channel 7 to weigh its tanks, which belong to the Belize Dry Cleaners (BDC); Amandala was present for that investigation.

The Bureau of Standards certified that the scale was accurate, and that the measurements taken on this scale class fall within the Bureau’s error tolerance. Thus by the Bureau’s standards, there were no apparent errors in Channel 7’s interpretation of the missing gas from their butane tanks.

When asked about the discrepancies noted in the investigation, the BWEL executives said that they could not verify whether the figures are accurate because, as previously mentioned, the measurements were not done in their presence, and they didn’t get a chance to make sure that the figures weren’t tampered with. They said they welcomed any media or independent assessment by competent individuals; they only requested that they be present for the examination.

Amandala attempted to get a comment from the Bureau of Standards, but were told that they aren’t authorized to give any interviews. They would issue a press release early next week, they said.

Channel 7’s news tonight, Thursday, featured Lascelle Arnold, the managing director and owner of Belize Dry Cleaners (BDC), based in Belize City. He was hit so hard by the under-filled tanks, and the discrepancies were so large, that he had to start to closely monitor the butane sold to him, he said.

He told us that BDC orders butane for two large tanks from a certain company — a 500-gallon tank and a 1,000-gallon tank, every one or two weeks. He said that this company, whose name he requested that we not reveal for legal reasons, had been overcharging BDC until BDC had gauges installed. These gauges certified that the amount paid for was not what was present in the tanks, and this had been going on for several months.

As a result, the BDC and this company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

In this MOU, the butane company conceded that it had been overcharging BDC and that it owed Arnold for 5,890.7 gallons of butane, which roughly translates to over $18,000. In the signed document, the company agreed to supply butane free of charge until the overpayment had been exhausted.

The MOU documents this company’s pledge to return “small” amounts of fuel to BDC every week for free for the time period of July 2009 to May 2010. These “small” amounts would eventually add up to the full 5,890.7 gallons which it had overcharged BDC.

BDC now monitors every transaction with the butane company and keeps a log of its readings, and readings the truck meter takes. Both parties sign every time and the amount read by BDC’s instruments are what they pay to the butane company, which has come to accept BDC’s gauges as correct.

The question remains, how many consumers have been scammed countrywide, and for how long? The answer might run into the millions of dollars.

  
(Ed. NOTE: We have not published the name of the other company investigated by Channel 7 because we have not been able to talk to the company up to press time, to give it an opportunity to defend itself against the charges.)

Amandala


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#400232 - 02/14/11 04:28 AM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Relaxed Offline
Well well well..............isn't that amazing........now really .....Tomza in Mexico is generally considered a complete sham....with regards to getting a full.....or even 80% tank....the other provider is slightly more honest......in the good old US of A......you still have to be there when the tank is filled on the scales....waiting for the official response.....

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#400295 - 02/15/11 03:30 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Bureau of Standards Says Will Insist On Scales For Butane Vendors

On Friday the Prime Minister accused butane companies of, quote, "stealing from the consumers." He was following up on the findings of a 7news investigation, which showed that we were cheated in pounds, gallons, and money when we bought three cylinders of butane from two local importers in the city.

Subsequent to that, Belize City's largest consumer of butane, Lascelle Arnold of Belize Dry Cleaners told us that after 20 years of buying butane in bulk quantities he's concluded that all the meters on the butane dealers' tanks are "rigged." Arnold showed us, how, quite incredibly, when the Liquid Petroleum Gas Companies sell him hundreds of gallons of butane, the companies agree to ignore the amount on their meters and bill him by what shows on the gauge of his tanks. With all that revealed, the Prime Minister called out the Bureau of Standards, which should be the consumer watch-dog, saying that, quote, that agency "must act."

But will it? That's what we asked Director Jose Trejo today. Here's that interview:

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"There is no doubt that there is the possibility that there are acts of deception. The issue is how do we address it?"

Jules Vasquez
"You said there is a possibility. I took a tank, a Tomza and it came back with 72 pounds of fuel of LPG. That isn't a possibility sir. That is a certainty that I got shorted."

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"It depends on the mixtures Jules....

Jules Vasquez
"How can it? Even 100% propane weighs 90 pounds Mr. Trejo. What are you running from?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"No, I am not running from anything."

Jules Vasquez
"If I fill up my 100 pound butane tank, it should be 100 pounds. Would you agree on that?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Yeah."

Jules Vasquez
"You agree then that I have two tanks, one weighing 70.2 and one weighing 88. So something is wrong with that."

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"There is definitely something wrong. It's just that like I said I would really like to have the resources to be able to make that determination with more certainty. I am not saying that the exercise is totally erroneous, I am not saying that. But there is......"

Jules Vasquez
"You don't think that I let out butane? I didn't act in a fraudulent way. But it wasn't scientific to your standards."

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Like I said there are other elements that one has to consider."

Jules Vasquez
"Yes but if it should weigh 100 pounds it should weigh 100 pounds. Am I right? It should weigh 100 pounds."

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Again, depending on the weight, yes."

Jules Vasquez
"Consumers are being ripped off right now and will be ripped off tomorrow and we were ripped off last week and for any period of time going back. Does that concern you?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Well the Bureau has the overall mandate for consumer protection and it takes it with all seriousness."

Jules Vasquez
"But are you convinced that people have been systematically defrauded?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Well that's an issue that you don't need me to say that...."

Jules Vasquez
"No, but I need you to be......the Prime Minister is convinced of it."

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Well it's a concern, it is a concern and it is a problem that we need to correct fast."

Jules Vasquez
"It is a fact that people have been systematically been defrauded in your opinion?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Yes."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you appreciate the urgency that the poorest of the poor are every day - these people fill up $15 - $20 at a time and every day when they go they are being gypped ever so much. Do you realize the absolutely urgency of that and the absolute outrage these people understandably feel?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"I understand that and I know that is a problem that we have on our hands and like I said to the fullest of our capacities, we are trying to do what is possible to ensure that the consumer gets value for money."

"In the past for example, If I can say, that was before my time, I believe that the agents carried portable weights - scales and so that is something that we would like be able to pursue, in other words when you take the tank to the person's home, at least that person will know that tank is weighed before it's taken to the depot and in return when it comes back to the consumer, the consumer can see exactly what was pumped into the tank so those are the avenues we are trying to pursue as well."

Jules Vasquez
"Are we able to make a demand that scales be put in?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Well from a regulatory perspective, yes."

Jules Vasquez
"Is that something that you will be looking at in the immediate term?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"I would say in the immediate term."

Jules Vasquez
"How soon will your office demand that scales be put in? The head of the government has said that it's an absolute urgency. How soon will you make the demand that 'you guys have to put in scales and you have to have scales in your vehicle and you have to have weights, etc?'"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Well we have to now make the request to our minister because he has to sign a statutory instrument."

Jules Vasquez
"So a statutory instrument would have to go into effect to demand that they put in scales?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"Right. And a statutory instrument can be drafted and like I said we don't have any legal expert in this office but we need to consult with Sol Gen and to get that done. I would say a minimum of two weeks, or a week, by Friday perhaps."

Jules Vasquez
"Ok, moving forward, I have a consumer complaint to make. How do I proceed and how do others who have because BWEL has said that it would not refund me and I know that I have been shorted 12 pounds and in another cylinder, 6 pounds. How do I make a complaint or how does the average citizen go about making a complaint?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"You can call the Bureau's hotline which is 0-800-285-5887, you could send us a email to register that complaint and the consumer protection unit will engage the metrology and the standards unit to pursue the matter."

Jules Vasquez
"But how will you ensure culpability?"

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"With the complain that you have submitted, we will do what is necessary in our power to try and seek redress as you have done with every issue that comes to our doors and ensure that you get compensated and if you are not compensated then we would have to pursue as I mentioned the clause in the national metrology act that we could utilize to be able to at least impose penalties."

Jules Vasquez
"Your office is now at the forefront of national attention. This is one of the few issues that affects every single household and business in the country and that everybody is looking at your office, small though it may be, everyone is looking at your office and expecting results."

Jose Trejo, Director - Bureau of Standards
"I say miracles."

Trejo also showed us his metrology unit - which also doubles as the lab and triples as the store-room. To put it plainly, the facility is pathetic, and we note that the Prime Minister committed to, quote, "urgently provide the resources for the Bureau" and we intend to hold him to it.

We note that the Burea presently only has two inspectors for the entire country who have to check every type of gauge and meter countrywide, including 500+ fuel pumps, and weighing scales at all grocery stores.

Presently, the Unit does not have equipment to test or calibrate the meters on the butane tanks which the LPG companies use.

We'll keep following the issue tomorrow, when we expect to have another revelation from a former insider about how the meters are rigged.

Channel 7


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#400382 - 02/16/11 03:45 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

A Butane Company Insider Speaks Out About Systematic Fraud

One week after we first discovered mass fraud being practiced at two city butane companies, the revelations continue to startle.

Tonight in a collaboration with PLUS TV we have the testimony of an insider, someone who works in a senior position at a large butane company and knows all their dirty tricks.

Specifically, he knows exactly how the meters on the Butane trucks and tanks are rigged and to what extent.

He spoke to PLUS TV on the condition of anonymity this afternoon in Belize City.

Our colleagues at PLUS who have been running full tilt with the story since we broke it last week, offered to give us a first go at the interview.

To protect the whistleblower's identity, we have altered his voice and darkened the video. When you hear what he has to say about what amounts to a policy of deliberate meter rigging, you'll know why he's scared to show his face:…

Interviewee
"In most cases or 90% of the cases the meters are being tampered with. They tampered with the meter and thief about 2 - 2.5 - 3 gallons from each tank, in the process of tampering with the meter; they regulate the meter so that the meter would spin a bit quicker. The numbers on the meter would move and hence the reason that the impact comes on the consumer itself."

Luis Wade
"So what you are telling me is that companies are deliberately tampering with the meters on vehicles so that customers are getting less than they pay for?"

Interviewee
"Basically it's not only on the trucks but also at the plants. There are technicians that the company has that comes in to regulate meters; let them spin a bit quicker so that the company can gain more and rob from the consumer itself."

Luis Wade
"How is the tampering taking place? Give us a technical blow by blow of how the scam works from the inside."

Interviewee
"The meters come with a seal. It goes from the meter box to the meter head, at times or in many cases the seal are broken from the meter head and they release the meter head from the meter box. On the meter box has a spinning wheel. They regulate the spinning wheel by releasing the screws from them so that it spins faster. When they spin faster they place back the meter on the meter box and when they do their test it shows that the gallons are passing. The meters are spinning, they its spinning quicker than it supposed to be spinning so hence the reason on a regular tank the meters shows 22 when actually you are getting about 18 gallons."

Luis Wade
"Now for example on the Channel 7 experiment in which Jules Vasquez did a demonstration; he took in his cameras. From a person who has work in the industry; the industry right now is saying that what Mr. Vasquez did was not accurate, what Mr. Vasquez - they would have wanted to be there to see what is happening. Let me ask you a question? The results that Mr. Vasquez got on Channel 7, would you say that that is totally outside of what normally happens or is that within what happens every time from your knowledge?"

Interviewee
"From my knowledge that's what basically happens on a daily basis. See what happens is that Mr. Jules Vasquez with his cunningness just went to the plant without anybody knowing and did a spot check on them and hence the reason the result that came out. Because they did not know that Mr. Vasquez would have done something like that. So the meters were not regulated back to the standard that they should have been and was kept the same place that they were hence the reason showing the miscalculation of the gallons and the pounds in the tank."

The interview was conducted by Luis Wade - who'll have more of it on his morning show Eyes On The Nation tomorrow. We'll also have more from that interview in tomorrow night's newscast when you'll hear the whistleblower explain that butane companies do have scales which were used in the past - but which have been put to the side in favor of the flow meters, which are easy to rig, and which cannot be tested for accuracy by the Bureau of Standards because it doesn't have the equipment.

Channel 7


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#400384 - 02/16/11 03:48 PM Re: The Un-Metered Butane Tank [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BUREAU OF STANDARDS SAYS NEW MEASURES TO BE IMPLEMENTED FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION

The Belize Bureau of Standards says it will be implementing new measures to protect consumers as it relates to the sale of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, or butane. In a press release, the Bureau says that it will pursue some of these measures, in the immediate term, to provide assurance to the public. It also stated that the Bureau will be seeking financial support from government to acquire metrology equipment to monitor the LPG importers. This equipment will enable the bureau to monitor the weights and measures and quality of the butane mixtures. Furthermore, the bureau is expecting to receive technical assistance in March from a company in Germany. Under this body, the bureau will conduct a complete analysis of the industry, product quality and safety, evaluate storage and distribution methods, and develop appropriate standards among other things. In the release the bureau acknowledged that the butane situation in the country is a “serious problem” which it seeks to address in the fastest and least amount of time their resources permit.

LOVEFM


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