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Court finds for LPG consumers in class action

Jakarta Post - October 10, 2001

Annastashya Emmanuelle, Jakarta – The Central Jakarta District Court ruled on Tuesday in favor of a class action filed by Kapak LPG against the state-run oil company Pertamina for arbitrarily raising the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) last November.

The court found that Pertamina and its government-appointed Board of Commissioners had acted unlawfully in increasing the price of liquefied gas without first fully informing LPG consumers about the hike.

The class action suit was first filed in February by the Kapak LPG, a coalition of 20 lawyers from the Indonesian Consumers' Foundation (YLKI), the Jakarta chapter of the Legal Aid Institute, the Indonesian Law Association, the Indonesian Legal Aid Center, and the Indonesian Center for Environment Law.

The court's verdict, which was read out by presiding judge Ali Akmal Haki, ordered Pertamina to revoke last November's decision to raise LPG price by 40 percent from 1,500 rupiah (15 US cents) to 2,100 rupiah per kilogram.

Pertamina was also required to compensate class members to the tune of 144,000 rupiah ($14.18) per month in material loses, and pay 16,000 rupiah ($1.57) to every person who could prove they were LPG consumers in Greater Jakarta.

The class members consisted of nine persons representing LPG consumers in Greater Jakarta. They were Waskito Adi Riwibowo from Central Jakarta, Wigali Ningsih from East Jakarta, Marharinche Manik from West Jakarta, Sukarni from North Jakarta, Riswati from South Jakarta, Sri Lisnawati from Tangerang, Waris from Bogor, Listiati from Depok, and Thamrin B.W. from Bekasi.

According to YLKI data, there are about 200,000 LPG consumers in the greater Jakarta area.

However, the court's decision will not to be executed immediately as Pertamina is to file for an appeal. "We're lodging an appeal ... nowhere is it stated in the law that a business has to familiarize its plans to the public before putting them into effect," said Linawati Djaja for Pertamina.

Indah Suksmaningsih, the chief of operations of the YLKI, told reporters that Pertamina's argument was weak and unacceptable. "The liquefied petroleum gas is consumed by the public. It should not make any drastic decisions which affect the public interest," Indah commented.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of the legal representatives from Kapak LPG hailed the court decision, saying that Tuesday's verdict represented a landmark following the enactment of the Consumer Protection Law, which came into effect in April last year.

"This is truly a milestone as regards the implementation of the Consumer Protection Law. We hope it will bring about more progress on consumers' rights," lawyer Mohammad Ihsan told The Jakarta Post. The LPG case is the first class action to have been won by consumers since Law No.8/1999 on consumer protection came into effect.