Force motorists to pre-pay at the pumps, says police boss

A senior police chief has said motorists should be made to pay for fuel before filling up to prevent theft, after the number of people driving off without paying has increased to around 25,000 per year.

Chief Constable Simon Cole of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) says that petrol stations have the ability to stop “bilking” (driving off without paying for fuel), but choose not to because they want to ensure customers spend money by coming into the shop.

"Bilking" has increased by 40% according to some police forces.

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Talking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: “The petroleum industry could design out bilking in 30 seconds by making people pay upfront, which is what they do in other countries. They don't, because the walk in their shops is part of their business offer.”

Some police forces say that bilking has increased by as much as 40% over the last year, with incidents across the country reaching around 25,000. However, some forces say that it is now a waste of resources to investigate thefts of less than £50 of fuel unless there’s proof of criminal intent.

However, motoring organisations have accused the police of “victim-blaming” fuel retailers. The RAC has said that while petrol stations could stop bilking, the negatives outweigh the benefits.

Police have been accused of victim blaming retailers

The RAC’s fuel spokesperson commented: “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.

“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.”

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association said: “Rather than lecturing the victims of crime, the government should be empowering responsible businesses to enforce the law where the police are too overstretched to intervene. One solution would be to give petrol retailers electronic access to the DVLA’s Vehicle Keeper database, so they can pursue drive-offs through the civil courts and ease pressure on the police.”

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The news comes as fuel suppliers have been accused of overcharging motorists by up to £2.5m per day by not passing on falls in oil prices. Petrol is at its most expensive in almost four years, with the average litre of unleaded costing 129.51p.

What do you think? Would you mind paying before fuelling up, or would it make you fill up elsewhere? Let us know in the comments.

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