In Chennai, one of the first set of cities to get LPG connection portability in the country, customer response to the scheme launched as a pilot programme remains subdued four months after the launch.

“Where is the need to change agencies or companies so long as refill supplies are on time,” is something that both oil company officials and distributors pose when asked about the popularity of the scheme.

Timely supplies matter most to the customer, Indane sources say, estimating the number of connections ported to be less than 50. Coimbatore, the only other city in Tamil Nadu, where households have the option of changing distributors and oil marketing companies, lags behind Chennai in terms of such changes made, an official said.

Besides the absence of backlog in supplies, the subdued customer response is attributed also to the lack of public awareness of the scheme.

This, however, has not deterred the oil companies from expanding the clusters, which denotes an area and distributors where portability is possible. From a mere two clusters — Anna Nagar and Mylapore — at the time of rollout in August in Chennai, the scheme is now ready for launch in 32 clusters across Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Vellore and Thiruvannamalai. In some of the clusters it is available while in others necessary orders would be issued soon.

On the reasons cited by those in Chennai who changed cooking gas agencies, distributors say customer service levels was somewhere down the list. Customers said they live close to the agencies, see many vehicles of the distributors in their locality as compared to those of their existing distributors and recommendation from neighbours. An Indane distributor added that the process, however, was not completely online as it sometimes the receiving distributor had to send staff to collect the necessary documents from the old distributor.

While agreeing that improvements were possible, officials of the companies say the portability would come in handy when competition sets in. But for the customers, it would still involve making changes in their telephone diary about the new connection, telephone numbers, something that officials say is also stopping them from opting for portability.