Petroleum giant Engen is facing allegations of sidelining black-owned fuel enterprises, leaving them struggling while their white-owned counterparts purportedly thrive.
According to anonymous black fuel resellers who spoke with IOL, a staggering three to four million liters of fuel consistently find their way to white-owned businesses, leaving others with a significant void.
The allegations don’t stop there.
It’s claimed that Engen’s downstream sector, which once showcased diversity, is now dominated by white-owned companies, effectively pushing out prior beneficiaries.
According to IOL, these claims are laid out in a comprehensive complaint filed with the Competition Commission.
Moreover, numerous customers have raised concerns over what they perceive as blatant favouritism.
They assert that rebates for black-owned enterprises have been steadily reduced, while select Engen customers, primarily white-owned, continue to enjoy consistent rebates.
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This disparity, they argue, began when a new white manager took the helm of the Reseller Business at Engen Petroleum Limited.
In candid discussions with IOL, these resellers paint a grim picture, describing their situation as a “battle for survival in this industry.”
They further allege that Engen offered exclusive pre-buys to specific customers during significant price hikes, providing them with an unfair pricing advantage in the market.
Directors of black-owned companies, speaking anonymously due to fears of retaliation, said that the situation has significantly worsened in recent months.
One director stated, “Engen holds our contracts by a thread. Speak out, and they’ll terminate it.”
He added that, after a decade in the industry, the current climate represents the most challenging period he has faced.
“Stand up to them, and you’re crushed,” he lamented.
Another customer disclosed that a staggering 90% of truck stops and distribution companies are in the hands of white-owned entities, with some allegedly having ties to former Engen employees.
“Since last December, our rebates were reduced by 21.0 cents per liter. Yet, Engen agents dangle better diesel prices in front of us. When we challenge them, they claim distribution companies remain unaffected. This isn’t just unfair; it’s a death knell for our businesses,” the reseller said.
Engen, however, vehemently denies these allegations.
In a statement, the company said, “Engen categorically denies these unfounded accusations. Our business decisions are rooted in ethics, corporate values, and compliance. We invite those behind these anonymous claims to come forward. We’re open to addressing their concerns transparently.”
The company also highlighted its anonymous Ethics Line, encouraging individuals with genuine concerns to use it.
Engen further stated, “We deny the baseless allegations of impropriety, which are false and misdirected. Ethical considerations, corporate values, and compliance inform all our business decisions. We welcome a meeting with the nameless people making the allegations to address their concerns in an open and transparent manner. We also operate an anonymous Ethics Line (0800 11 12 12) to report fraud, theft, misconduct, or other associated irregularities and/or suspicion of these activities.”