Motorists ripped off at the petrol bowser by under-pouring pumps


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Motorists are getting short-changed at the bowser, paying for more fuel than they put in their tanks.

One in 20 of the 1340 pumps tested were found to be inaccurate, according to a national audit by the National Measurement Institute (NMI). This translated to a 7% error rate, far more than the 0.3% maximum error level allowed under Australia's trade measurement laws.

Nine fuel retailers have been slapped with fines of $15,750. A further three were fined $6300 and, due to "severe and repeat" offending, four were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

petrol pumps under pouring

The findings follow a worrying trend first identified a year ago.

"The proportion of fuel pumps found to be inaccurate to consumer disadvantage doubled over a two year period, from 2.4% of inspected pumps in 2015-16 to 4.8% in 2017-18," says NMI acting CEO Bill Loizides.

"While we accept that the great majority of fuel retailers are doing the right thing, the one-in-20 pumps found during the audit to be under-pouring is an unacceptable level of non-compliance, especially when we provided plenty of warning that our inspectors would be on the look-out."

In addition to the fines, fuel retailers will be put on notice with close monitoring to continue through 2020.

"Fuel retailers who don't properly maintain their pumps to ensure they remain accurate at all times should be aware that we'll be following up with another concentrated audit campaign in 2020, where they can expect a similar approach to any non-compliance identified," says Loizides.

On a more positive note, analysis by indicates fuel prices in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne should drop this weekend after hitting a two year high this week. Adelaide should see a price hike, however, while Canberra prices will likely remain the same.

Meanwhile, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) is urging motorists to perform basic vehicle safety checks before hitting the road this summer.

"On holidays, we're driving our cars further than usual, but that's not all. We're packing them with passengers and presents before heading onto unfamiliar, often high-speed roads," says FCAI CEO Tony Weber.

"Little things can make a difference to road safety. A car equipped with the latest safety equipment can't replace worn tyres or see an oil leak. Before you take on Christmas traffic, give your car a once over, and if you aren't sure, check Genuine is Best's guide."

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David Thornton was a journalist at Money from September 2019 to November 2021. He previously worked at Your Money, covering market news as producer of Trading Day Live. Before that, he covered business and finance news at The Constant Investor. David holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.

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