HC Deb 31 July 1981 vol 9 cc641-2W
Mr. Nicholas Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the supply of liquefied petroleum gas is to be published; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

[pursuant to her reply, 25 February 1981, c. 356]: I am now able to give the House further information pursuant to the statement which I made on 25 February when the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report was published. In its report the commission concluded that two practices previously pursued by Calor but discontinued prior to the reference did operate against the public interest and should not be reintroduced. The discontinued practices were those of requiring distributors to buy appliances only through Calor and of including in their agreements a provision which prevented distributors from handling other suppliers' LPG for various periods after ceasing to handle Calor's. On 22 July my right hon. Friend received and accepted undertakings from Calor Gas Holding Company Limited in the following terms: The Calor Group Limited, Calor Gas Limited and Calor Kosangas Northern Ireland Limited (hereinafter referred to as Calor), jointly and severally undertake to the Secretary of State for Trade:

  1. 1. Not to reintroduce a condition (nor enforce or seek to enforce such condition) for the supply of liquefied petroleum gas that would require a distributor to buy some or all of his requirements of liquefied petroleum gas-burning appliances through Calor.
  2. 2. Not to reintroduce a condition (nor enforce or seek to enforce such condition) in its agreement with distributors that would prevent or seek to prevent the distributor from handling other suppliers' liquefied petroleum gas after termination of the contract of supply with Calor."

Exports of Scrap Metal 1976–1980
1976 1977 1978 1979 1980
consigned to: thousand tonnes
Middle East and North Africa 0.7 3.1 9.5
India 15.3
Japan 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.1
Other countries 597.7 937.3 1,554.7 1,334.8 2,780.5
£ million fob
Total value of exports 27.3 37.7 63.5 75.2 141.0
INDIA 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.9 0.4

In its report, the commission also criticised certain aspects connected with the refill authority charge—the initial charge to a user to enable him to obtain a cylinder—the availability of information explaining fife significance of "Calor Gas Approved" and the use of certain expressions in Calor sales literature, and in all cases Calor has agreed to make amendments to remedy these points.

The commission accepted the principle behind the refill authority charge, but considered that the conditions as to refunds should be set out more prominently on the agreement form. Calor has agreed to amend the forms at the next reprint to give more prominence to the conditions as to refunds and in addition—although this was not in response to a criticism made by the commission—has offered to amend the refund conditions so that the hirer would always receive a minimum of 25 per cent. of the refill authority charge where at present the hirer receives no refund at all after 12 years' use.

In connection with the "Calor Gas Approved" scheme, the commission suggested that Calor should take steps r.0 ensure that its distributors who market appliances provide customers with adequate information about what has been tested under the scheme. In response to this criticism, Calor has agreed to make it clear to potential purchasers that details of the specific testing criteria are available on request from a specified address.

The commission criticised the use of certain expressions in Calor sales literature which might mislead the potential purchaser into believing that an appliance was suitable only for use with LPG supplied by the Calor group of companies. Calor has agreed that it will no longer use the expression "Suitable for Calor Gas only" or any other form of words which could reasonably be held to convey the impression that an appliance was not suitable for use with LPG supplied by a company other than Calor.