Displayed gas pricing ahead

It is going to be easier to find the best price for gas here soon, but oil company representatives have voiced concern that the forthcoming gas display price mandate could have a detrimental effect on smaller dealers.

The deadline set for the price display signs to go up is 31 March and has been mandated by the government.

At Friday’s Cabinet press briefing Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said planning approval was given to the oil companies to erect the signs, which are expected up before April.

Speaking on behalf of Esso Standard Oil Ltd. Country Manager Alan Neesome said the go ahead was given for the signs by the Planning Department in mid-December and was, what he terms, an ‘administrative’ approval.

Esso’s signs have been ordered from overseas and are costing Esso Ltd. approximately $100,000.

District Retail Manager Chevron (Texaco) Caribbean Inc. Armando Vegas said that his company was also given approval for the signs in December and they will have them up by 1 April. They are not on island yet, but the order has also been placed.

Mr. Neesome said he personally does not feel the signage is necessary.

‘It is sensitising the public to a price where it wasn’t previously, and now the public is only considering price rather than service’ he said.

However, he also noted that it probably would not make much difference as most people, he believes, go to which ever gas station is more convenient for them, and some people have an account at a set gas station.

But Mr. Neesome is worried about the potential effects the pricing displays could have on the smaller gas station dealers.

His one concern is that if a price war starts between, say, Esso and Chevron, or the individual dealers, that the smaller dealer without large convenience stores, in some of the outer districts, won’t be able to compete as well because they are solely dependent on fuel sales.

‘You could see smaller dealers go out of business,’ he said. ‘But I have said this to the Government and they don’t agree with me, and others don’t agree with me, so maybe it won’t happen.’

Mr. Vegas said he believes that in any free market the more information available to the consumer the better. However, he said he did not know if this would help with competition.

He admitted that the signs could spark price wars, which may negatively affect smaller dealers with smaller volumes.

Mr. Tibbetts could not be reached by press time for a response on this.

While it is the responsibility of the oil companies to supply the signs it is incumbent on the dealer to keep up with pricing and adjusting the signs accordingly.

Mr. Neesome said Esso’s signs will be about six feet high and will have lamps lighting downwards on them.

They are to be erected at different locations at each gas station so as to ensure they do no restrict access and exit points.