RealTime Mandarin
RealTime Mandarin+ Podcast
State-owned gas company ordered to pay compensation for overcharging customers

Paid episode

The full episode is only available to paid subscribers of RealTime Mandarin

State-owned gas company ordered to pay compensation for overcharging customers

Chongqing Gas Corp "assassinated" thousands of customers

Tens of thousands of residents in Chongqing and Chengdu complained to the authorities over the last month about abnormally high gas bills since January this year.

Many residents also shared their exorbitant bills online.

The customer backlash came after gas metres were upgraded to new “smart” devices.

Some people have reported that "the new metre runs faster than a jet", saying they'd never had a gas bill over 100 yuan before the metre was replaced, as they’re a small household. Now, it's nearly 200 yuan every month.


The controversy forced the local authorities in Chongqing into action. On April 13 the formation of a joint investigation group was announced. 

A week later, in a press conference held by the government on April 19, it was confirmed that the Chongqing Gas Group Corporation (重庆燃气), and other local gas providers, had overcharged some residents.

The investigation found Chongqing Gas to have chaotic gas billing cycles ranging from seven days to 13 months, poor organisation in upgrading to new gas metres, and bad internal supervision and management.

One of our favourite phrases from 2022 was used to describe how Chongqing Gas has ripped its customers off: 

For a long time, gas companies have quietly been overcharging customers during routine metre readings and billing. It's similar to what's known as the "ice-cream assassin". 

They are behaving like a "gas assassin", leaving people feeling annoyed but unable to oppose it with concrete evidence.


Chongqing Gas was ordered to fully refund residents who were overcharged. The company’s General Manager, Chē Déchén 车德臣, was also sacked. 

It is rare for a provincial government to admit residents are being overcharged by a major state-owned company. 

But the Chongqing authorities had no choice:

With such a large number of complaints and such astonishing "consumption", if the gas company continued to insist there was no issue, not only will the company become a laughing stock, they will also seriously damage the local government's credibility.

In other words, it is precisely the gas company's "shameless rip-offs" that drew significant backlash from the public, and this "gas price assassin" has once again pushed the local authorities to a corner.



One day later, the Chengdu authorities ordered the city’s main gas provider, Chengdu Gas, to refund their customers who had been overcharged.

Although the investigations have concluded, many affected residents in Chongqing and Chengdu say they have not yet received compensation. A similar customer backlash is still unfolding in Kunshan in Jiangsu, where there are also reports of local government intimidating residents who share their high gas bills on social media, according to China Digital Times.

How state-owned gas providers operate is unlikely to really change any time soon: 

It’s unlikely that the doubts raised by this incident will be fully clarified.

Maybe the fact there will never be a full truth is the only truth we can find.


So, that's what we are exploring this week!

Favourite Five

Artwork by Derek Zheng

1. 刺客 cì kè


这种行为类似于“雪糕刺客”,可以称之为燃气刺客 - This behavior is similar to "ice cream assassin" and can be called gas assassin. [1] 

  • Background: Ice-cream assassin was one of our favourite words of 2022, first coined in July 2022, when a premium ice cream brand was found to be selling ice creams at RMB 60, often sold in the same freezers as 5-yuan ones. The word "assassin" is now used generally in relation to any situation where the customer is being ripped off.    

2. 骚操作 sāo cāo zuò

underhanded operation, shady practice

官方的通报直接揭露了燃气公司常年存在的各种“骚操作” - The official announcement directly exposes the various shady practices that have long existed in gas companies. [1] 

  • Note: An internet slang phrase. 

3. 动手脚 dòng shǒu jiǎo

tamper with

拍到燃气表跑得飞快的镜头,更是让人不由得不信燃气表被动了手脚 - The footage of the gas meter running rapidly makes it hard not to suspect that the device has been tampered with. [1] 

4. 吃相太难看 chī xiàng tài nán kàn

unsightly behaviour, ugly appearance, shameless

正是燃气公司的“吃相”太难看,让相关问题酿成舆论风波 - It is precisely the gas company's "shameless rip-offs" that drew significant backlash from the public. [1] 

5. 吃不了兜着走 chī bù liǎo dōu zhe zǒu

in serious trouble

很多人的结果可能会是吃不了兜着走 - Many people might be in serious trouble. [4] 

  • Note: A slang phrase linked to not being able to finish food in a restaurant and taking it away.

Refer a friend

Consuming the Conversation

Chongqing Government: It’s serious!

Useful words

6. 错抄 cuò chāo

incorrect metre reading, misreading

两地燃气企业均存在错抄、以估代抄、计费周期混乱以及计价不规范等问题 - Gas companies in the two cities have problems such as incorrect meter readings, using estimates for actual readings, chaotic billing cycles, and irregular pricing. [1]

7. 死结 sǐ jié

deadlock, impasse

也就是说,这个问题几乎是个死结,只要燃气公司咬死自己没问题,用户并没有多少博弈能力 - In other words, this problem is almost impossible to solve. As long as the gas company refuses to admit its malpractice, residents don't have much bargaining power. [1]

  • Related:

    • 咬死 yǎo sǐ - insist stubbornly on, stick to

8. 没门 méi mén

no way, impossible

要撬开这个行业不可告人的秘密,没门 - There's no way to uncover the industry's dirty secrets. [1]

9. 懵逼 mēng bī

confused, baffled

四个月竟然交了1.5万元的燃气费,整个人都懵逼了 - I can’t believe that I paid 15,000 yuan for gas bills over four months.  [2] 

  • Note: A common internet slang phrase.

Three-character phrases

10. 乱收费 luàn shōu fèi

arbitrary charging, chaotic billing

重庆、成都两地的燃气乱收费疑云 - There are suspicions of arbitrary charging for gas in Chongqing and Chengdu. [1]

11. PUA

made to believe that it's one's own fault 

有了官方通报,用户至少可以合理地质疑,而不会陷入自我PUA的困局 - With the official announcement, residents can at least question the practice of gas providers instead of thinking it's their own fault. [1] 

  • Note: One of our favourite phrases of 2022, originally from American English, an acronym for "pick-up artist".  

12. 冤枉钱 yuān wang qián

money spent in vain, unjustified expense

让每一户有疑问的人家都得到满意的解释,不能让人多花一分冤枉钱 - The authorities should give every household a satisfactory explanation, and make sure people are not paying more than what they need.  [3] 


13. 沸沸扬扬 fèi fèi yáng yáng

a hot topic, widely discussed

在沸沸扬扬多日后,终于都有了官方处理结果 - After days of heated discussion, the government finally announced its findings. [1] 

14. 不吐不快 bù tǔ bú kuài

to speak one's mind, to get something off one's chest

不过联系到整个事件及其背后折射的问题,尚有一些话不吐不快- However, considering the entire event and the issues it reflects, there are still some things that need to be said. [1]

15. 层出不穷 céng chū bù qióng

incessant, emerging one after another

网上关于燃气表读数异常、收费不合理的曝光层出不穷 - Posts of abnormal gas metre readings and unreasonable charges came up one after another. [1]

16. 无可奈何 wú kě nài hé

helpless, have no alternative

设若燃气公司还是死咬着不松口,恐怕用户也无可奈何 - If the gas company continues to refuse to admit, residents probably can't do anything about it. [1]

17. 不动声色 bú dòng shēng sè

calm and collected, without changing one's expression; secretly

燃气公司在日常抄表、计费操作中,“不动声色”地乱收费 - The gas company is secretly overcharging the users during routine metre readings and billing. [1]

18. 眼花缭乱 yǎn huā liáo luàn

dazzling, bewildering

手机话费的各种套餐,更是让人眼花缭乱 - The various mobile phone tariff plans are even more confusing. [1]

19. 无法无天 wú fǎ wú tiān

lawless, unrestrained

他们业绩越好,老百姓就掏的越多,真的是无法无天了 - The better the company performs, the more money ordinary people have to pay. They're indeed above the law! [3]

20. 绳之以法 shéng zhī yǐ fǎ

to deal with according to law, to bring to justice

一定要查出这些蛀虫,必须将其绳之以法才能平息群众怒火!- We must find these parasites and bring them to justice to quell the anger of the people! [3] 


21. 入室抢劫 rù shì qiǎng jié


可能是他们人为地将燃气的浓度或气压调低了,导致气量增加,这种手段堪比入室抢劫 - It's possible that they deliberately lowered the concentration or pressure of the gas, resulting in increased gas volume. What they did is akin to burglary. [3]

22. 出乎异常 chū hū yì cháng

beyond the ordinary, extraordinarily

一边是居民燃气费用出乎异常地翻倍,一边是涉事企业大赚特赚 - On one hand, residential gas expenses have abnormally doubled, while on the other hand, those companies are making huge profits. [3]

23. 逼到墙角 bī dào qiáng jiǎo

back sb. into a corner

这种“燃气刺客”现象,又把当地官方逼到了“墙角”- This "gas price assassin" has once again pushed the local authorities to the corner. [1]

24. 大跌眼镜 dà diē yǎn jìng

to be greatly astonished, to be shocked

成都“老人居家4个月燃气费1.5万元”的报道,更是让许多人大跌眼镜,惊呼不可思议 - The unbelievable news of "elderly resident in Chengdu paying 15,000 yuan for gas bills over 4 months" has astonished many people. [1]

  • Related:

    • 大开眼界 dà kāi yǎn jiè - to broaden one's horizons, to have one's eyes opened; in this context it was used to indicate surprise.

In this Member Resources section, as a member of RTM+ you unlock tools to help you get your Chinese language skills back up to date, and stop it decaying any further!

In every post you unlock amazing multimedia resources offering you maximum flexibility:

  • 🔈Audio: 30-minute podcast with 80% native Chinese

  • 🗞Reading: 4 x curated links to real news articles about this story

  • 📚Integrations: Word lists which can be download into your favourite app - Pleco, Skritter, Hack Chinese, mylingua, and now with Anki flashcards!

  • 📄Print outs: 3 x PDFs with podcast transcript, word list, and example sentences (with pinyin)

  • 💬Community: Join our chat, comment on posts, and DM us directly with questions, early invites to in-person meet-ups.

For just $180/year or $25/month it’s a no-brainer. 👇🔥

This post is for paid subscribers

RealTime Mandarin
RealTime Mandarin+ Podcast
The RealTime Mandarin+ podcast helps you maintain and improve your Mandarin skills, and stay on top of the latest Chinese language trends.