Forecourt retailers have criticised the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for local policing after he said fuel theft can be reduced by making customers pay before filling up. 

Chief Constable Simon Cole told the Daily Telegraph that forecourts “could design out bilking [fuel theft] in 30 seconds” by installing pre-pay card machine pumps. 

However, store owners said the officer didn’t understand the industry.

Martin Mulligan, who runs a Londis forecourt in the Republic of Ireland, told RN: “The majority of my customers spend at least €10 (£8.72) on top of their fuel and we would lose a lot of money if they had to prepay at the pump. They wouldn’t have a reason to come into the shop.”  

Adam Hogwood, of Budgens Broadstairs, added: “It would be unprofitable because altering the pumps is expensive and we would lose customers.”  

According to the Petrol Retailers Association, retrofitting a single pump for prepayment would cost around £20,000. 

A retailer added: “Retailers will need pumps compatible with specific software to make prepayment possible. The average cost per pump from some manufacturers is £39,000; the installation would require another £11,000.”

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