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Pumped by dirty fuel

CHOICE says it pays to know your rights when it comes to contaminated petrol

04 August 2016

Consumer group CHOICE is reminding consumers to always ask for a receipt when purchasing petrol following a spate of contaminated fuel incidents that have left a number of consumers tens-of-thousands of dollars out of pocket.

"Such a simple thing as asking for a receipt when filling up could save you if something goes wrong at the petrol station and you end up with water in your fuel tank," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.

"We have been contacted by a number of consumers locked in disputes with petrol stations over bills ranging from $500 up to $21,000 to repair their cars having pumped dirty fuel.

"When we raised the issue with the NRMA they confirmed four petrol stations in NSW alone have sold dirty fuel in the last 18 months.

"Fixing these problems might be as simple as replacing a fuel filter but in the more serious cases your fuel system might need replacing, which can take weeks and leave you significantly out of pocket.

"Unfortunately you can't tell at the pump if the fuel is contaminated. It's only when you've left the service station and your car starts stalling, misfiring, pinging or backfiring that you know something is up.

"Under the Australian Consumer Law, you have the right to a refund if the petrol you buy doesn't do what it should do, and you may also be able to claim compensation for any damage the contaminated fuel causes your car.

"If something goes wrong and you can't provide proof of purchase, a petrol station can try to evade liability. We've even heard cases of credit card statements being rejected so for extra assurance ask for an itemised receipt and record the bowser number.

"If you're worried about losing paper receipts, you can download the ACCC Shopper app for your phone for an easier way to store your receipts digitally.

"Assuming you're covered under your comprehensive car insurance can also be a trap. Although NRMA and GIO will cover you if the mechanics report determines contaminated fuel to be the cause, AAMI and Just Car Insurance do not cover you," Mr Godfrey says.

To protect against contaminated fuel:

  • Always ask for an itemised receipt
  • Take note of the bowser number
  • Ensure your car insurance policy covers you

"When something goes wrong, the key to holding the service station to account is ensuring you have an itemised record of the purchase," says Mr Godfrey.

Read CHOICE's full investigation into tainted fuel.

Media contact:

Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669


Set up by consumers for consumers, CHOICE is the consumer advocate that provides Australians with information and advice, free from commercial bias. As vital today as when we were founded in 1959, CHOICE continues to fight for consumers and uncover the truth. By mobilising Australia's largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.