The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) has won its ten-month campaign to change unpopular Home Office counting rules on drive-offs.

New guidelines introduced in April 2005 had appeared to down-grade the crime status of ’making off without payment’ offences - which cost the industry more than £20m every year.

However, the Home Office has now adopted new, clearer guidelines, which came into force on April 6 and mean that drive-offs must be treated like any other crime.

Kevin Eastwood, executive director of BOSS, said: "This means that once a drive-off has been reported it now has to be treated in accordance with National Crime Recording Standards. It can no longer just be sidelined. Hopefully this means that all police forces will now properly investigate drive-offs. "

The previous guidelines had resulted in confusion, with some forces treating drive-offs as a civil debt issue rather than criminal offences. Eastwood hopes the change will see more forces adopting Forecourt Watch schemes.