An unhappy fuel supply ending for award-winning Glasgow-based retailer; wake up and smell the VAT; anyone know of a leasehold service station up for grabs?
An unhappy ending
Shamly Sud, director of Glasgow-based GHSL, which owns the RaceTrack Pitstop chain, told me that she was very unhappy with her experience with Certas Energy and that she was leaving the contract for BP. I asked her to bullet point her grievances as they were very lengthy but I had not anticipated a 22 point reply.
So, to summarise for the sake of space, Shamly got a letter on 29 September telling her that the money outstanding on four sites was £124,261.
She says: “Surprised that I never had a heart attack reading that! There was no email address or phone number for me to call to discuss the matter. There was only the general number and email address that you use to place an order.”
And she wonders how anyone would respond after seeing such an outrageous figure. “What would have happened if I hadn’t chased it? Would Certas just have debited £124,261 from my account?”
There were no calculations as to how this figure was reached. After she disputed it, she got another letter on 11th November with revised penalties bringing it down to £54,868.38. The company had said it had applied a low volume clause to all the sites (but in actual fact it only contractually applied to one unmanned site, Crow Wood, which had been closed previously for four years).
She adds that there would have been a case legally. “Why did they only set Crow Wood to having the only low volume clause – which I agree we missed as we wouldn’t have thought the contract would have been any different to the other three when all four were signed at the same time?”
Another grievance was that charges for low fuel sales took no notice of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then there was a further falling out over Shamly stopping her direct debit despite her having a bank guarantee of £290k in place. She maintained that cancelling her dd would make no difference but she was told that they couldn’t accept manual payments. “Which was ridiculous as I had been paying Crow Wood manually whenever it was due as the dd had never been set up. This was the case for five years. [But they] didn’t know this!”
To get it moving forward Shamly informed them that she would pay upfront for the fuel.
There was yet a further dispute over the de-branding of the sites.
Then a Certas Energy’s tanker driver had delivered fuel putting super unleaded into a super diesel tank. She adds: “They did take responsibility and removed the fuel and replaced it. However they charged for the fuel that they replaced. So charged me twice rather than just once. They also did pay for the loss of sales which I lost during the time. However there was no compensation given for how our name (RaceTrack) was affected because of this incident. Customers had put it on Facebook saying that our site had contaminated fuel. We heavily advertise our brand through radio so this kind of incident actually affected our image.”
And she concluded over the whole sorry state of affairs: “They basically put me in a corner in which I had no choice but to accept or go down the route to fight them legally.”
I asked Certas for a response and a spokesperson replied: “There is real disappointment throughout Certas Energy that what was a good relationship in the early days has gone awry. Communication between us clearly faltered and we take our share of responsibility for this. At Certas Energy we pride ourselves on our relationships with Dealers, working closely together to help them develop and grow their businesses.
“We understand how Shamly must have felt when she received the letter for outstanding monies. It was an error and once brought to our attention we apologised and immediately rectified the situation.
“We have a strong retail network in Scotland comprising around 100 Gulf-branded sites and it is therefore of great regret that Shamly and GHSL decided to go elsewhere. We wish them well for the future.”
Wake up and smell the VAT
Some of you may remember a piece last October on Costa coffee and the rate of VAT being charged. The VAT rate was officially reduced to 5% last July yet Costa’s invoice was still showing a rate of 20%. Costa said at the time that it was not a case of overcharging but just to do with the way the invoices were formatted which they were going to change.
Now the retailer has sent me six VAT correction invoices that he received in February from Costa Express. He says: “What they are doing is applying 5% to the margin discount on which they previously applied the 20% VAT rate. I suspect HMRC has slapped them on the wrist for the previous invoices that I sent you several months back. Those invoice as I previously said did not look right. Costa were reclaiming the VAT off HMRC on those invoices. When you consider that, if they had done this with all their machines, they were reclaiming millions of pounds off their VAT payments to HMRC instead of paying millions £ss to HMRC. Just because they are a huge multi national does not mean their accountants are right (as they had previously told me they were).”
Does anybody know of a leasehold service station up for grabs?
Srikrishna Gaddam previously took on a one-year contract with the Northhold Group for a site in the village of Locking outside Weston-super-Mare. The lease is finished now and he is looking for another leasehold forecourt, preferably longer than a year this time, either in Weston-super-Mare or Bristol or East or West Midlands. Somewhere urban rather than rural.
If anybody does know of anything suitable please let me know or contact Sri direct on 07814 164459.
Contact Jac Roper
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