80% of LPG users in most parts of India do their cylinder booking through SMS, going by what the junior minister for petroleum and natural gas told the Parliament today.
According to RPN Singh, in most of the cities, “more than 80% of the customers are using the system successfully whereas, it is more than 90% in some cities.”
The statement in contrast to reports that the SMS-booking facility does not always work and SMSes are often replied to with ‘try again later’ messages and others.
SMS booking, introduced in nearly all the major states in India, had made it possible for the first time for consumers to directly book their cooking gas cylinders, instead of depending on the pleasure of the local gas agency.
Local gas agencies often did not encourage customer booking, it is alleged, as they would book cylinders on behalf of their customers without their knowledge and divert them illegally to businesses and others.
To check this, the government had told oil companies to establish web portals where consumers could enter their ID numbers and find out the number of cylinders that have been issued in their names and the dates on which they were issued. The website too is often found dysfunctional.
SMS booking was the second part of the strategy to prevent gas agencies from diverting their customers’ subsidized gas allotments and delaying bookings.
Without SMS booking, consumers had to either go physically to gas agency stores or be at their phones literally for hours trying to get through to the agencies.
Asked whether checks have been made to ensure that the system still works, Singh said: “No specific survey on customer satisfaction on this initiative has been undertaken so far, he added.”
Singh also said that ordinarily LPG cylinders will be delivered within two working ways of the booking.
The SMS scheme currently covers about 2965 LPG distributorships and about 4.36 crore LPG customers and will soon be expanded to cover another 63 lakh customers through 490 LPG distributorships, he added.