The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) says it has seen "very encouraging" results from a trial it has been running in Hertfordshire where it acts as the middle-man between retailers and police. The trial, which started in April, is a version

of BOSS’s existing Forecourt Watch scheme, which operates in more than 70 areas of the UK. With the standard scheme, if a retailer is a victim of a drive-off or has a customer who cannot pay, they fill out a paper report and send it to the police.

In the Hertfordshire trial, when a customer cannot pay, the retailer calls the BOSS Fuel Payment Centre. The customer completes a form while the retailer tells BOSS how much petrol has been taken and passes on the person’s details. This information is verified by the Payment Centre against its database. The customer gets a number to call to pay by credit card, with any unpaid debts passed to a civil debt recovery company.

The trial is being run at 73 sites and concentrates on tracing repeat offenders.

BOSS executive director Kevin Eastwood said: "It’s designed to make it more difficult for people who don’t pay for their fuel - but we won’t persecute honest people who really have left their wallet at home." He described the initial results as "very encouraging", with police seeing a drop in the number of reported incidents. BOSS plans to fully evaluate the trial before it decides whether to launch it nationwide.

For more details, see the security feature on page 24.