On May 7 the country goes to the polls to elect a new government. One of the first questions I will be asking the new Home Secretary is "What is the justice system going to do to respond better to drive-offs and ’no means of payment’ (NMoP) incidents?"
The latest research from BOSS shows that forecourt crime is costing retailers more than £30m a year. During the past decade there has been a concerted effort to tackle forecourt crime and while drive-off losses are at the forefront (£21.7m in 2014), the losses from customers claiming to have no means to pay, having refuelled, has risen considerably (£9.7m in 2014).
The BOSS Payment Watch scheme was designed to help retailers recover money from motorists who claim to have no means to pay. Some motorists never pay and BOSS has been working with police forces nationally, targeting people who have repeatedly not paid for fuel, having said they cannot pay. So far more than £1.5m has been recovered from NMoP incidents on behalf of BOSS member retailers.
The police response to motorists who systematically fill up, never intending to pay, still differs from force to force. Also, after lobbying from BOSS, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) now accepts that repeated actions of NMoP represent a crime. Where Forecourt Watch and Payment Watch schemes operate, we have very positive relationships with police and prosecutors.
However, there is still dissatisfaction with the response of some police to the reporting of incidents. I will therefore ask the new Home Secretary to revisit guidance given to police and the CPS to ensure that the whole process of reporting and investigating forecourt crime from the time an incident is reported, to when a retailer is given the outcome is in line with agreed guidance. I will also ask that retailers be entitled to receive a formal response about the action that’s been taken.
Equally it is important that retailers fully understand their responsibilities. The police are a law enforcement agency; they are not debt collectors. Retailers should take all reasonable steps to protect their assets and, when incidents occur, make sure that procedures are in place to provide the police with accurate and timely evidence so that offenders can be pursued and prosecuted.