The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos (ARESEP) – Regulatory Authority of Public Services – often comes under fire for approving increases in water rates, increasing costs in electricity, bus and taxi fares and gasoline prices.
But this public institution, created in law in September 1996, inheriting the regulatory functions of the Servicio Nacional de Electricidad de Costa Rica (SNE) -National Electricity Service of Costa Rica back to 1928, is more than a government agency setting prices and fines on Uber drivers, it is a consumer protection agency as well.
For example, with respect to a major consumer headache, gasoline stations ripping off customers, giving them less fuel than they pay for and lower quality, the Aresep was able to reduce what was a serious problem a few years go to only 22 complaints in 2016 and 9 so far this year.
How did they do that? Through stringently monitoring four times a year every one of the 359 filling stations across the country and the addition of a control system inside the fuel dispensers, in order to detect attempts to defraud customers.
The control system, which began to be placed last year, dissuades the offenders because they prevent the manipulation of the internal mechanism of the dispensers.
Quality is another function of the Aresep inspections.
Given that all gasoline products sold at gasoline stations in the country all come from one source, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (RECOPE), one would expect the product being dispensed is of the same quality when it left the RECOPE plant.
But one would be wrong.
Thus, besides ensuring that the dispensers are giving out the correct amount of gasoline being charged, the Aresep controls also include a chemical test carried out on regular and super gasolines and diesel fuel.
It is assumed that this work, monitoring of quality, quantity, continuity, and prices of fuels marketed in the country, according to the Aresep, directly benefits the owners of the around 1.3 million vehicles in circulation.
In the first half of the year, the Aresep says it carried out 764 inspections (359 stations each with 2 inspections), finding 28 non-conformities: 9 for dispensing less quantity, 14 for quality aspects (presence of sediment or water and lower octane, among others) and 5 for price.
The price at the pump, set by the Aresep, applies to every single gasoline station across the country, regardless of location or volume dispensed.
The Aresep inspection found two gasoline stations selling at a lower price and three overcharging.
Where can you get the right gasoline and the right amoung dispensed every time?
The Aresep inspections for the first half of the year reveals gasoline stations in Guanacaste and Limon to have a perfect record, that is they were given a 100% grade on compliance with regulations tests.