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Mixed reactions as Government considers seeking bad gas compensation

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2016 | 1:00 AMGary Spaulding

Mixed reactions greeted yesterday's announcement by Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, that the Government is seeking to ensure that motorists affected by bad gas are compensated.

While Leonard Green, president of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers' Association (JGRA), embraced the announcement, Opposition Spokesman on Energy Robert Montague described it as a red herring.

"The JGRA is elated by the disclosure by the Government that they are now considering compensation to motorists who have been affected," said Green.

"We are happy that having championed the cause on behalf of the retailers and the motorists, the wisdom of the action is positioning to be a reality," he added.

"I am so happy to hear because we were the only body out there championing the cause, and I will have a lot to say in due course."

For his part, Montague said: "The minister keeps doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and it is full time the Government accept full responsibility and compensate motorists for failing to enforce the quality standards."

He added: "It is a red herring and the minister must stop playing games."

Paulwell, who made the disclosure during an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, said the Government would be looking at the possibility of a state-sponsored class-action suit on behalf of consumers."

Paulwell said the Government was determined to show that it is fully in support of consumers.

"One of the reasons that we have been so cautious is to preserve the rights of our consumers ... . Even before that, we are now looking at legal possibilities, including legal class action," he said.

Paulwell told The Gleaner that Cabinet on Monday gave the green light for such an undertaking after the three-member committee that he will be chairing prepares its report.

The other members of the committee are Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton and Attorney General Patrick Atkinson.

But Montague stressed that a class-action suit would be long and drawn out.

"Instead of going this route, the Government failed to test and certify gas before it came on to the market," he charged.

He argued that the motoring public purchases gas with the clear understanding that any gas being sold in Jamaica must meet the minimum standard in the second schedule of the Petroleum Quality Control Act.

"If an individual wishes to go to court on his own, fine," he said. "But the Government must develop a scheme, whether it is waiving taxes or sitting down with the distributors to work something out."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com