After being contacted by frustrated drivers A Current Affair investigated reports that petrol station operators were using ‘broken pumps’ to force customers to buy more expensive fuel. Sarah Stewart reports.
A Current Affair recieved the following responses from petrol station operators:
Unleaded 91 fuel is available at this store, however at the time you have advised, there was unscheduled maintenance work, which resulted in minimal interruption to access to this product. Other fuel grades, including E10, which is 2c per litre cheaper than Unleaded 91 was available to customers.
“Any suggestion that we close pumps to reduce customer choice is false. We strive to give our customers 100% availability, from time to time we may have issues with our pumps and we work closely with our alliance partner Shell to resolve these.”
• The ACCC receives a number of enquiries in relation closed bowsers.
• The ACCC’s previous consideration of these concerns found that in many cases, the closing of pumps reflected specific instances of petrol shortages or mechanical difficulties or faults. Some service stations advised that closure of certain pumps at night time was for security reasons, while others referred to repairs, maintenance or upgrades.
• Generally speaking, what retailers choose to sell and when they choose to sell it is a matter for them. This is also the case for petrol retailers. However, in making those choices, petrol retailers need to be honest and truthful in their representations as to the availability of supply.
• Service stations making price board representations that certain types of petrol are available when they have no intention of making it available for sale will raise concerns under the misleading and deceptive provisions of the Australian Consumer Law.
• These concerns will be heightened where there is deliberate intent to mislead; where there is no legitimate reason for supply difficulty; and where the retailers has had sufficient time to change their price board representations.
• More generally, the ACCC would emphasise that as with many consumer issues, competition is the best guard in this area. In circumstances where a particular petrol retailer doesn’t have supply we encourage consumers to shop around.
Caltex has strict standards in place for the operation of all its sites. These standards are part of our commitment to safe operations. They also help us to identify and address any anomalies related to the operation of our infrastructure. Our customers expect fuel purchased from our sites to be of a high quality, delivered efficiently and in the right volume. We take these expectations seriously.
If we detect that fuel dispensers on a site are not working to these high standards, we will take the affected device offline. A problem affecting a particular bowser can sometimes be as simple as it not communicating reliably with the computer in our store – this is frustrating for our customers and staff, so we believe that the best solution is to put an out-of-order sign on it and get it fixed. We will also take a fuel bowser offline if we find that it is not dispensing the correct amount of fuel.
There are also times when a particular bowser is taken offline in order to carry out scheduled maintenance, upgrade the infrastructure or perform work on underground tanks. We try to minimise the frequency, timing and duration of any such disruptions, which we know can be inconvenient for customers. In most cases, the affected product remains available in other areas of the forecourt. We will only bring a fuel dispenser back online once we are satisfied that it is working as we expect it to.
We urge customers not attempt to use a fuel dispenser that is marked “out-of-order”. In some cases the dispenser may appear to be operating as normal. However, it is important to recognise that the device has been taken offline because we are not satisfied it is working as it should. Customers must have confidence that the fuel they are buying is of high quality, the correct volume and that the machine will work as expected.
Two Bio E10 Unleaded hoses at the Sylvania Heights site have been out of order for several weeks. Bio E10 Unleaded remains available from other bowsers at this site. Service technicians have been to examine the fault and we are awaiting the necessary parts. We hope to have the machine operating as we require in coming days.
Wiley Park / Greenacre
We have taken the Vortex 95 Unleaded tanks at this site offline while we carry out some tests. We hope to have this product available again soon, but will only do so once we are completely satisfied that the tanks are operating as expected. In the interim, Vortex 98 is available for customers needing a premium unleaded fuel.