BP dealers have been handed bills of £5,000- £10,000 per site by the oil company, after it uncovered an accounting error, and told them it will be recovered by direct debits over three consecutive months.

Dealers received emails from BP in which the company said it discovered it had not been charging them sufficient fees related to the Allstar fuel card for the past three years.

It went on to list the total under-charged, which in most cases has been a substantial four-figure sum per site, and said it would recover the sum through direct debits over three consecutive months.

Some dealers who spoke to Forecourt Trader said taking such substantial sums so quickly would adversely affect their cashflow. Another multi-site dealer said they were simply emailed a bill with no breakdown of how the total had been arrived at. He said he had no prior knowledge of the under-charging, and would be taking legal advice from his solicitor, but he expected that BP must have already checked and would have a legal right to reclaim the money.

In a statement, Howard Nunn, UK sales manager, said: "We do not wish to adversely affect our dealer partners business and we are working together with them to agree a process for cost recovery."