THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has developed a grading and labelling system for service stations operating in the country to enhance customer service experience and value for money.
In the past, the regulatory authority used to rate service stations on compliance with technical standards only, but the new grading system includes an evaluation of a service station’s ability to provide value-added services to motorists.
“Zera has developed the grading and labelling system for service stations to help consumers realise the full range of services that fuel service stations can offer to enhance customer service experience and enhance value for money,” Energy and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda said at the launch of the fuel retail service stations grading system in Harare on Monday.
“For example, the supply of free compressed air at a service station is not only convenient, but also helps improve fuel economy of cars by maintaining correct tyre pressures.
“In addition to the basic expectations of fuel quality and safe facilities, service stations are now being rated in terms of availability of the following customer service and convenience features.”
Under the new system, service station grades are classified and labelled orange for a fair site rated a (one star), blue for a good site rated a (three star), and green for a very good site rated a (five star).
“The grade assigned depends on the extent to which they meet technical and customer service standards. A site deemed “very good” (five star) provides all the customer service features mentioned and meets a very high level of technical standards compliance at the same time,” the minister said.
The grade symbol serves as a promise to consumers of the service experience they can expect at the site.
To date, more than 350 service stations countrywide have been assessed in the grading programme and affixing of the grade symbols at the shop fronts has commenced.
Zuva Petroleum was the first site to be inspected and was given a five-star grade at its Simon Muzenda Street retail site.
Soda said the government had managed to stabilise fuel supplies in the country over the last two years, making differentiation key to competition in the fuel sector.
The government expects this scheme to improve motorist decision-making in choosing service stations and it expects to see an improvement in overall standards in the petroleum industry.
Zera chairperson David Madzikanda, however, said getting a five-star rating did not mean that the quality of the fuel is better and, therefore, more expensive.
“The quality of fuel is the same throughout the country, as most of the fuel is obtained from NOIC [National Oil Company] depots at Msasa and Feruka. The few exceptions are those sites supplied with fuel from tankers mainly from SA [South Africa],” he said.
“This fuel is not blended, but classified as unleaded petrol and such fuel is suitable for some modern cars and is available at a few sites,” he said.
Madzikanda said the fuel business had continued to thrive with more forecourts being opened in many parts of the country because of their regulation and measures.
Zera continues to protect customers in terms of the quality of fuel that they purchase as well as avoiding exploitation by dealers by putting monthly caps on the price of fuel and allowing market competition to take place, according to the chairperson.