Feisty official names companies that scam Dominican consumers
Santo Domingo.- In an unusual show of gumption, the head of Dominican Republic’s consumer protection agency –ProConsumidor- on Friday named names and companies which she affirms continue to scam the public, and warned that she wontt waver despite attempts to briber her.
Altagracia Paulino started with naming propane gas supplier Propagas and its owner Arturo Santana, fined for alleged fraud in the pumping of the widely used fuel.
“Propane gas is a political power, but the Supreme Court ruled that ProConsumidor can levy fines,” the official said, noting that to confirm the fraud, her agency even bought specialized measuring equipment from Italy.
“They have refused to pay the fines and have gone to the Constitutional Court since” Paulino said of the more than RD$1.5 in fines her agency has slapped on Propagas and other suppliers.
She also cited the case of the French retail giant Carrefour, accused of false advertizing. “We’re now proceeding against them, in the same with Claro (telecom).”
Paulino said connivance between government agencies and those who seek to defraud consumers is so rampant that even official documents are forged to assure continuing scams.
She cited the government’s standards and measurement agency DIGENOR, where she affirms a regulation was forged to benefit propane gas suppliers. “I refused to sign the regulation, I was furious, they changed it, with the complicity of DIGENOR, it was fraud. 1.5 billion pesos of taxpayers’ money, there are many traps sprung on government officials, but I discovered the fraud.”
Paulino said despite the ruse, “I found the trick.”
She said her agency has received 4,000 complaints of propane gas fraud so she decided to see for herself how it was done. “I sent to buy a gas of tank 100 pounds, and we then measured it and found the shortage: “they add up to billions yearly.”
When asked about last year’s scandal over fecal coliform found in salami, Paulino said despite improvements by meat processors, “it’s time to read the label.”
Interviewed by Edith Febles and Marino Zapete o Colorvision, the official also revealed that the association of propane gas suppliers offered to provide equipment to ProConsumidor, “but I refused because a government agency can’t accept that kind of help.”
For his part, Zapete also revealed that despite their invitation to interview representatives of Propagas, they’ve refusal to appear on camera.