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Unpaid fuel incidents remain higher than before the pandemic

Incidents of motorists failing to pay for fuel are continuing to fall, with more than 5% fewer incidents in the first quarter than in the last three months of 2023, with numbers of drive-offs declining even faster.

The drop, according to the latest Forecourt Crime Index from the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS), comes despite rising fuel prices during the period.

However, BOSS warns that despite the encouraging trend - the level is at its lowest since the second quarter of 2022 - unpaid fuel incidents remain higher than before the pandemic.

The data shows that failure to pay occurances were 5.8% lower than in the previous three months, although the average amount of unpaid fuel drawn was up slightly.

Drive-off incidents saw their largest fall in a quarter at 7.2%, while no means of payment (NMoP) were 1.1% lower.

The average cost to operators of NMoP incidents decreased to £67.40 from £69.49 in the previous quarter, while the average cost of a drive-off incident fell to £50.12 from £52.51.

The average litres drawn in an NMoP incident increased to 43.52 (from 43.24 litres in the fourth quarter of 2023). Litres of fuel drawn in drive-off incidents eased to an average of 33.41 litres (34.32 litres).

Claire Nichol, executive director at the non-profit industry body, said: “The latest Forecourt Crime Index indicates that forecourt operators are still facing unacceptable levels of unpaid fuel incidents. Despite a downward trend, the Index remains higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

She added: “Forecourt operators should not be complacent and staying one step ahead is all important. We continue to urge fuel retailers to adopt robust procedures, such as Payment Watch, to manage the recovery of money-owed and tackle the scourge of unpaid fuel.”