Inspectors will conduct a fuel pump blitz because of a rise in service stations caught short-changing drivers at the bowser.

National Measurement Institute experts testing petrol and diesel dispenser accuracy last financial year found 4.8 per cent underpoured — double the rate of two years earlier.

“In light of this trend, NMI’s national compliance plan for 2018-19 includes a focus on inspection of this instrument type,” the regulator said.

Of 1933 pumps checked nationwide, 1.6 per cent gave motorists more than they paid for.

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie said accuracy could deteriorate over time due to wear and tear.

“The onus is on outlets to ensure regular calibration and verification by qualified technicians, and regular maintenance,” Mr McKenzie said.

“This is an important aspect in keeping trust among consumers.”

The maximum permissible error for petrol and diesel dispensers is plus or minus 0.3 per cent of the volume delivered.

The tests uncovered 123 bowsers with inaccuracies outside the limit. Of those, 93 were to consumer disadvantage, and 30 to consumer advantage.

The authority does not identify rule breakers, nor the size of mistakes, unless there is a conviction in court.

The NMI’s latest annual report on trade measurement compliance also shows:

ABOUT half of inspected fruit and vegetable, meat and seafood retailers were found to be flouting the law in some way during initial audits;

JUST under 5 per cent of reviewed packaged goods lines had less product than stated on labels; and

OVERALL, inaccurate measuring instruments were more likely to benefit consumers (3.7 per cent) than cost them (2.3 per cent).

The NMI does mainly targeted audit programs. Most errors were “relatively minor and usually quickly addressed”, it said.

Non-compliance can include failing to deduct packaging weight in over-the-counter sales, labels not meeting requirements, “short measure” packaged goods and unapproved or inaccurate measuring instruments.

The NMI said consumers could be confident of getting what they paid for, with more than 94 per cent of inspected businesses found to be compliant “after any necessary follow-up audits”.

Two-thirds of all complaints about potential trade measurement law breaches relate to suspected fuel rip-offs.

“However, it has been a consistent trend over recent years that only a small proportion of those complaints are found to be justified when investigated,” the NMI noted.

Across industries, inspectors last year did 9460 audits, tested 14,906 measuring instruments, and checked 965 weighbridges. They also assessed 271,243 individual packages.

The watchdog issued 3620 noncompliance notices; sent 222 warning letters; and issued 58 fines totalling $65,250. It referred one business to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Extracted from Herald Sun