However, unlike cellular services where consumers have the option to switch between different mobile companies, LPG consumers would have the limited option of changing only their dealers, not the oil company.
So, if you are a consumer of Indane gas from Indian Oil Corp (IOC), you now have an option to choose from Indane Gas dealers in the locality. But you cannot switch to Bharat Gas of Bharat Petroleum or HP Gas of Hindustan Petroleum.
"LPG distributor (dealer) portability is being launched today in Chandigarh and will be extended to at least 25 more districts in the next fiscal," Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters here.
The scheme would be extended all over the country in a phased manner. "A pool of 2 to 3 dealers would be cleared for every locality in the district. Consumers will have the option of choosing from this cluster," Moily said.
A ministry official explained, meanwhile, that inter-company portability was not legally possible for the time being as the law provides for a LPG cylinder belonging to a particular company to be submitted to only that company for refills.
"We are looking at the possibility of changing law or creating a situation where the consumer returns the cylinder to that particular company before availing of a new connection from a different company," he said.
Moily announced launched new IT/web enabled initiative, 'Lakshya', to enable consumers book and track refills online as well on mobile phone.
He said LPG dealer portability has been launched to provide better services to 13.5 crore customers and end the monopolistic practices of the cooking gas distributors.
Like portability in mobile services, which allow customers to change service providers while retaining their number by paying a small one-time fee, portability of LPG connections allows customers to change their dealers.
Moily said the new IT/web enabled initiatives were to make distribution of domestic LPG more customer friendly and enhance transparency.
Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum together home-deliver over 30 lakh cylinders every day. Customers can now rate their distributors on service, with Moily saying that dealerships can be terminated for perennial poor service.
Now each distributor is being automatically rated from 5 stars to no star on a graded scale using transaction data. The distributor who supplies 85% of cylinders booked in less than two days is rated 5 stars and the distributor who supplies 85% cylinders beyond 10 days is rated no star.
Others are rated in between according to their delivery pattern. The rating will help consumers select distributorships once portability is available.
Customers can now view the delivery pattern of their distributor and compare it with other distributors in their area. Moily said the government will soon appoint 2,500 new LPG distributors after tweaking appointment rules.
He said the request for portability can be made electronically on the web portal and will be completed without manual intervention. Also, new connections can be applied online.