Petrol pumps delay strike over card payment fee as govt assures solution

The government has assured protesting petrol pumps to find a negotiated settlement on the issue of the new surcharge imposed by banks on card transactions, even as pump owners decided to postpone a threatened nationwide strike till 13 January.

Banks also deferred their decision to slap charges on card transactions in petrol pumps till Friday after the government intervened in the spat between the banks and pump owners.

Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Sunday that negotiations are underway between banks and oil marketing companies, while assuring that surcharge will not be imposed on both customers and petrol pump owners.

Oil marketing companies, however, said they will not accept a surcharge on facilitating card payments and would rather accept cash instead.
In fact, they had decided to stop accepting card payments and go for `cash only' transactions if the banks continue to impose a surcharge on card transactions – a development that threatened to derail the government's digital drive.

Pradhan said the government has advised both the banks and the oil marketing companies that they need to come together and find out a solution, asserting that all efforts are being made so that neither the customers nor the petrol pump owners are slapped with any levy or surcharge.

Meanwhile, the petrol dealers have asserted that the one per cent surcharge on card payments, which banks used to charge most establishments, was not applicable to petrol pumps and the new levy is a post-demonetisation development.

Since they cannot overcharge customers on a price-controlled product, they cannot ask customers to pay the surcharge. Petrol dealers had earlier announced that starting Sunday midnight, they would not accept the debit or credit cards of banks that would levy the extra charge.

Petroleum dealers' association had also written to union finance minister Arun Jaitley, informing him about the sudden decision by the banks to levy the transaction charge and their resolution to refuse card payments.

The banks' decision also goes against the government's attempt to promote cash-less transactions post demonetisation. The government had waived the MDR on fuel purchase for consumers during the 50-day window for exchange of demonetised notes for new legal tender.

The petroleum dealers association has a majority of the 56,000 outlets in the country as members while the four banks that have come up with the surcharge decision include HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and Punjab National Bank.