Gas suppliers are ordered to pay €400,000 damages over refill scams
TWO fuel suppliers have been ordered to pay nearly €400,000 in damages over the unauthorised rebranding and refilling of bottled gas cylinders.
The practice involves taking back empty cylinders from customers, refilling them and placing new names on them.
This is done by grinding down embossed marks of the genuine supplier or placing stickers over them. The cylinders are then sold at lower-than-normal prices.
Calor and Flogas, who account for 86pc of the bottled gas market, brought High Court proceedings against Tru-gas Ltd, of Castlebellingham, Co Louth, and its principal, Patrick Morgan. A separate but linked case was also brought against Langan Fuels of Waterford.
Calor obtained orders against Tru-gas and Langans restraining them from interfering with, rebadging or refilling the cylinders. Flogas's application for similar injunctions against both defendants was also settled following the Calor orders.
Mr Justice John Cooke said he had heard evidence on behalf of Flogas that company personnel became concerned in early 2011 at apparent changes in the pattern of sales.
There were complaints from retailers that rival products were being sold by competitors at prices considerably lower than would be justifiable.
The company carried out an investigation of Langan Fuels and found cylinders which had been illegally refilled.
The case then came before Mr Justice Cooke for assessment of damages, and he yesterday awarded €399,000 against the defendants.
In the Tru-gas case, he awarded €289,000, including €60,000 for replacing cylinders, €75,000 in damages and €100,000 in aggravated damages.
Another €54,000 was awarded for loss of profits and for an advertising campaign warning the public of cheap imitations.
In the Langan case, the judge awarded €110,000 made up of €60,000 for loss of profit on sales, €25,000 in general damages and €25,000 in aggravated damages.