Critics question 'unfair system'
By CATHERINE NG
LEGISLATORS have expressed disappointment at the Government's reluctance to introduce regulatory controls on Towngas charges.
Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming described the proposal for a committee which would require Towngas to consult and brief legislators ahead of price rises as a 'gesture'.
'Yes, it is a step forward. But it is only a very small step,' he said.
And he questioned whether it was fair for Towngas to escape a stringent regulatory system when the other two power companies were made to operate under controls.
Party colleague Lee Wing-tat asked when the Government would deem it necessary to introduce regulation. 'Will it be five years, 10 years - or when prices have inflated severely and the public is suffering?' Deputy Secretary for Economic Services Leo Kwan Wing-wah said regulation was unnecessary - there was no evidence the company was abusing its dominant position.
Official figures showed Towngas had two-thirds of the market share, while electricity and liquified petroleum gas had the rest.
While admitting it was likely Towngas would increase its dominance of the market, causing unease in the community, Mr Kwan said the Government wanted to monitor price increases through a mutually agreed channel.
'The gas company has indicated support in principle to this proposal [of setting up the committee],' he said.
Democratic Party spokesman on public utilities Lau Chin-shek said the Government was declining to take action and allow competition.
And he hoped the committee would be representative enough.
The Consumer Council had recommended an Energy Commission to co-ordinate, monitor and regulate the industry and advise the Government on policy.
But the Government had recommended setting up a new committee to advise it on energy policy and take up the functions of the existing Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee.