Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) plan to introduce a helpline to make LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) refills booking easier for customers.

The helpline would offer a choice of ordering a refill by sending a text message (SMS) or over the interactive voice response system. The messages received by the helpline would, in turn, be sent to the respective distributors.

The facility is expected to address complaints that booking a refill is time-consuming as either the phone lines at the cooking gas agencies are busy or their calls are not responded to promptly.

An IOC official said the helpline is likely to be introduced in three or four months. However, many Indane distributors are already accepting refill bookings through SMS.

The official was speaking to TheHindu on the sidelines of a meeting organised by the Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection department to redress the grievances of cooking gas-users in Perambur on Monday.

He added that only around 20 per cent of the customers are using the SMS booking facility as awareness is low.

The IOC and the HPCL are working out the modalities on whether they would share a common helpline number or offer separate numbers. They were also discussing whether it would be a toll-free number, an official said.

Apart from Chennai, the helpline would be available in 12 other cities across the country. It would be later extended to other parts of Tamil Nadu, the official added.

Another IOC official added that those placing requests for a refill cylinder by SMS would receive a reply text message with the waiting list number. The details about delivery of LPG cylinders would also be updated through SMS. Consumers would have to provide two mobile numbers to their distributors to avail the facility, the official said.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited launched a similar service a few months ago in the city.

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