Police have suggested a move towards pre-payment fuel pumps would overcome the 25,000 drive-offs a year reported by filling stations.
Following up this theft costs time and money and now police are advocating more pay-at-pump technology.
But they also acknowledge it could mean lower add-on sales in forecourt shops if drivers don’t go inside to pay and a possible rise in prices from technology changes at pumps and lost add-on profits through the shops.
Now the RAC has joined the discussion.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said, “While a blanket approach of compelling every forecourt to introduce pre-payment, pay-at-pump technology could solve the problem of bilking, it could also have some unintended consequences.
“Firstly, there would be an immediate financial impact on forcing fuel retailers to upgrade their pumps – this might be a cost easily swallowed by larger fuel retailers, but for the thousands of independent forecourts who already make a small margin on selling fuel, it could be a different matter altogether, possibly threatening the viability of some smaller operations. Arguably, some retailers may believe they have no choice but to charge more for fuel to cover their costs.
“Some independent forecourts also rely on drivers spending money in their on-site stores in order to make ends meet – something that could disappear if every driver paid at the pump. It could also mean people no longer having the option of paying for fuel using cash.
“It would certainly make sense however for those retailers who suffer regular fuel thefts to consider investing in pre-payment systems, or demand drivers pay in person before they top up.”