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Price probe raises more questions than answers

By LI YANG | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-22 08:19
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Visitors enjoy night views of Hongyadong from the Qiansimen Bridge over the Jialing River in Chongqing. [Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily]

According to an initial investigation carried out by the Chongqing government after local residents complained about markedly higher natural gas fees, between January and April this year,"mistakes" on 1,085 accounts led to excessive charges for 190,500 cubic meters of gas. In a news conference on Friday, the municipal government said it will continue to carry out a probe into the overcharging.

Chongqing Gas Group has said it will refund all the overcharged gas fees from recent months to users, which the local government said was mainly due to meter reading "mistakes". That excuse has only raised questions about the objectivity of its investigation and whether it is qualified to probe the incident as CGG is a State-owned enterprise.

The municipal government's news release also failed to explain where the overcharged fees have gone and the reason why the SOE supervisory system, which is part of the government system itself, failed to spot such large-scale overcharging.

Notably, the incident also prompted residents of other cities, including neighboring Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, to cast doubts on their natural gas fees and utility bills, as the charges have become markedly higher after the meters were "digitalized".

It remains to be seen if the incident can help promote a new round of institutional reform to address the issue at the fundamental level.

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