Katie Burgess, 28 December 2015

A Canberra teenager has accused a south Canberra service station of profiling P-platers after she was twice asked to prepay for fuel.

Rebecca Forrest, 17, said she was asked to prepay for fuel at the Caltex service station on O’Hallaran Circuit in Kambah by a staff member who allegedly told her it was due to her age.

The Erindale College student, who was with a friend at the time, snapped a photo of a handwritten sign behind the counter directing “all youngsters” to be “prepaid at all the time (sic)”.

“They … call you in over the microphone,” she said.

“I had to go in and the lady that was working told me all young people and P-platers had to prepay now.

“She didn’t give an explanation or a reason, she just said she had to because it was her job and her manager had asked her to.”

Miss Forrest said it was the second time in two weeks she was forced to prepay for petrol at the same petrol station.

She said she’d had a run-in with the manager of the service station two weeks earlier, when he allegedly told her she had to prepay due to the model of car she drove.

“The manager said that the police actually told them all of those models of car that I have, have to prepay,” she said.

“My friend has a similar car and she pulled up not long after that and she didn’t have to prepay either.”

An ACT Policing spokesman denied officers had instructed the manager to target specific vehicles.

“ACT Policing encourages crime reduction approaches for all crime types including petrol drive-offs,” he said.

“While ACT Policing may offer crime reduction advice and potential strategies, it is not our policy to instruct retailers in how they conduct their business; that decision is up to the specific retailer or service station as to how they operate.”

Fairfax Media understands other service stations in the south Canberra region enforce prepayment for all customers after 9pm.

Other stations have also been known to conduct “spot prepayments”, which operators say are “random”.

The police spokesman said enforcing prepayment across the board would decrease drive-offs, which are estimated to cost the Australian petrol industry more than $60 million a year.

“Prepayment, either instore or at the pump, would certainly reduce the opportunity for theft of fuel, however this is a service station operator’s decision whether this crime prevention measure should be implemented or not,” the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman from Caltex Australia said an investigation into the incident was underway.

She stressed that it was not “normal practice” to demand prepayment of fuel due to age.

Drive-offs cost Caltex over $1 million a year at its 86 company-managed sites alone, another spokewoman later added.

“These locations make up just a small percentage of the 1250 Caltex-branded sites around Australia, many of which are operated by independent resellers and franchisees,” she said.

“Even a small number of drive-offs can have a significant impact on the viability of a service station site due to the low level of profitability in fuel retailing … typically 1-2 cents per litre.”

She said generally speaking, fuel thefts were not insured and best practice was to mitigate it via number plate recognition technology.

“At Caltex we take a risk-based approach to security management in line with Australian standards and design our sites to minimise risks of theft. We have also invested heavily in a range of security equipment and other ways to protect our people and our assets including number plate recognition software and reporting incidents to the police. We continue to trial new ways and technologies to combat this issue,” she said.

“While the situation at Kambah site is not standard practice, it is up to each franchisee to take their own precautions.”

Extracted in full from the Canberra Times.