A digital debt recovery firm has been flooded with claims for unpaid fuel following a sharp rise in numbers. Rising petrol prices have led to a sharp increase in people not paying for fuel at petrol stations for a variety of reasons.
Petrol prices hit record highs last week with the price of filling the tank of the average family car surpassing £100
Debt Recovery specialist firm Forecourt Eye works with 1,000 garages in the UK. According to the BBC News website, they have said there has been a 39% increase in fuel non-payments since January.
These included motorists simply driving off without paying, payment cards being declined and claims that they have ‘forgotten their wallet’.
Nick Fisher, chief executive of the digital debt recovery company that traces and track non-payers, said: “This is not a good thing for anyone as more theft is going on.”
He said forecourt theft had been rising month on month since Christmas, with a 19.5% spike in January and February, which he linked to the rising cost of fuel.
This was followed by another rise of 4.5% in March, 8% in April and a further 7% in May.
The soaring price of fuel is down to supply issues caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a weak exchange rate between the US dollar and the UK’s sterling.
Mr Fisher said: “At the moment, we’re seeing a spike of people claiming to forget their wallets. Some people are trying to get away with it.
“Then there are people who fill up, they go buy a coffee and don’t pay for the fuel. And then there’s the others who put in £30 [of fuel] and just drive off.”
The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) is a non-profit organisation that campaigns to reduce fuel crime on UK forecourts.
It said that in the first week of June, incidents of unpaid fuel increased by 22% compared to May.
Claire Nichol, its executive director, said there is “no doubt” that there is a link between rising fuel prices and increased incidents of forecourt fuel crime.
“Motorists claiming to have no means of payment account for 70% of incidents which re-emphasises a shift away from drive-off incidents,” she added.
The AA’s Luke Bosdet said some people are stealing fuel out of desperation while others are organised and doing it to profit.
He explained: “The thief is someone who relies on their car, motorbike or scooter to get to or go about their work but their finances have been broken by the cost of living crisis. Stealing fuel then becomes an act of desperation.
“And then you have the organised thieves who see the high price of an essential item as highly lucrative and easily sold on.
“They will have their preferred method of stealing the fuel, whether that’s putting an extra tank on the back seat and then taking the fuel from forecourts, or taking jerry cans and cutting fuel lines on cars to drain tanks in the street.
The latter will know which cars are easiest to steal from and target those.”
In America, the system is very different were fuel has to be paid prior to filling up. This prevents any potential for avoiding payment. The driver makes payment at the kiosk before putting fuel in their vehicle.
The credit is then added to the machine and the driver is unable to add more fuel that what they have paid for. The petrol pump simply turns off once it has reached the prescribed amount. This could be one option for UK garages and sellers of fuel if the sharp increase in unpaid fuel continues at this level for the foreseeable future.