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Southwest metropolises look to address unusually high gas bills

Chengdu, Chongqing launch probes, vow refunds for overcharged residents

By TAN YINGZI and DENG RUI in Chongqing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-22 07:11
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Authorities in Chongqing and Chengdu, major cities in Southwest China, have taken steps to address residents' concerns about exorbitant gas bills, promising refunds and personnel changes.

In recent months, residents in both cities took to social media to report unusually high gas bills, with some claiming their costs had increased significantly. Investigations were launched to find the cause of the discrepancies.

For example, one resident noticed the gas meter in her unoccupied apartment in Chongqing's Liangjiang New Area was slowly running. She said she thought it was very strange, so she posted a video on social media that drew a great deal of public attention.

A news conference held in Chongqing on Friday evening was told the Chongqing Gas Group utility will refund all residents who were overcharged in recent months.

At the conference, the company acknowledged problems with mismanagement, including disorganization and inadequate internal supervision.

The utility was instructed to fully refund those who were overcharged, and Che Dechen was relieved of his duties as secretary of the company's Party committee. Li Jinlu was named the new secretary, the company said on its website on Friday.

"I am more concerned about how to ensure accurate gas fees, when refunds will be given and whether the problem will happen again in the future," said Li Dong, a Chongqing resident who suspects his gas bill was too high.

Similar cases have been handled in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. On Saturday, the city's market supervision administration issued a notice about the investigation and verification of gas-related problems reported by residents, revealing that those who were overcharged will be fully refunded by gas companies.

From April 1 to 19, the city's 12345 citizen service hotline received 1,996 complaints regarding gas-related problems, with additional concerns about gas metering, charges and service quality. Among them, 1,189 cases have been processed, while the remaining 807 cases are under urgent review, according to the notice.

The investigation has uncovered several issues at gas companies in the city, including the unauthorized estimation of gas usage, flaws in the billing system, irregular billing cycles and poor responsiveness to public demands.

The notice said that the ongoing investigation in Chengdu has led to joint investigation teams being deployed to Chengdu Gas Group and other gas utilities to thoroughly examine problems and initiate a concentrated rectification campaign.

So far, neither city has found problems with gas meters or quality, or evidence of manipulation through remote control to alter meters.

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