* Dealers’ cartel manipulating prices, causing artificial shortage
* Non-genuine batteries flood market, add to consumers’ woes
LAHORE: Prices of gadgets that provide electricity during power outages are skyrocketing in the provincial capital, in the face of government assurances to curtail load shedding.
A Daily Times survey revealed that prices of Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and dry-cell batteries have been steadily rising over the past seven to eight weeks. A UPS of 1000KV, which used to sell for Rs 11,000, is now being sold at Rs 12,500. A 130amp dry battery, which was priced Rs 7,000 up until last month, is now being sold for Rs 8,500 and above.
The market is also facing an ‘artificial shortage’ of batteries, because a handful of dealers have formed a cartel to manipulate prices. Customers are complaining that even the higher-priced and locally manufactured UPS do not always work well and have a tendency to break down.
Reportedly, most UPS manufacturers are using silver wires in the transformers instead of heavy-duty copper wire. A silver wire UPS has a short lifespan and cannot withstand long spells of power outages, heating up and burning away rather quickly. At a time when the whole nation is struggling to cope with the terrible crisis of load shedding, a few culprits in the UPS and battery business are fully exploiting the situation to make illegal money. Markets are flooded with substandard UPS and second-hand batteries – and the unaware common man is being fleeced.
At present, three to four local companies are manufacturing batteries like Exide, Osaka, FB, Volta and AGS. Exide and FB are being produced by one company and Osaka and Volta by another, according to a battery dealer at Chouburji Chowk. He said that companies provide batteries to their authorised dealers at control rates but the latter sell them at exorbitant rates.
“In this time of excessive load shedding, these battery dealers are minting millions of rupees by creating artificial shortage and selling the batteries at higher rates,” said the dealer. He said that Data Battery House in Badami Bagh, Battery House Mall Road, Malik Battery, Nisbat Road and Akram Butt Battery House, Mcleod Road were the main dealers in the overpriced-batteries market.
Jehandad Khan, a truck owner, blamed Haji Boota, a dealer of heavy-duty batteries at Badami Bagh, for selling batteries on exorbitant rates. “The whole community of truck owners is bothered and has complained several times to the police but in vain,” said Jehandad. “I appeal to the authorities to take notice of this illegal trade,” he added. zaheer shahzad