It is incumbent on all fuel operators to ensure that their pumps are accurate and verified at all times.  Historically inspections have found only a tiny fraction of pumps were inaccurate, and in the vast majority of those cases pumps were inaccurate to the customers favour.  Recent inspections on 1,993 pumps across the country in metropolitan, suburban, regional and remote locations, has shown a concerning trend towards not only more pumps being inaccurate, but the majority being inaccurate to the customers disadvantage.  The regulator is responding swiftly and a large scale blitz on pump accuracy is commencing shortly.  Operators are encouraged to understand the requirements and take steps now to ensure that their pumps are professionally verified and calibrated to ensure compliance.

National Measurement Institute (NMI), the regulatory body that oversees weights and measures, has recently launched a national compliance campaign that will target fuel retail businesses.  NMI inspectors will be visiting sites across the country to inspect and test fuel dispensers to ensure that they are accurate in the amount they are dispensing and charging customers.  Fuel retailers are encouraged to prepare for these visits by reviewing the fuel dispenser verification, calibration and maintenance practices now.

NMI has conducted initial audits and the results of testing 1,993 pumps across a variety of brands and locations has shown that while 1.6% were inaccurate in the customers favour 4.8% were inaccurate to the customers disadvantage.  This is a reversal in the historic patterns and represents a two fold increase in the inaccuracies in the customers disadvantage compared to two years ago.

As a result NMIs national compliance plan includes a focus on inspections of pumps and a nationwide blitz.  NMI has revealed that approximately two-thirds of all complaints about trade measurement from consumers are related to suspected fuel under delivery, however they outline “that only an extremely small number of those complaints are found to be justified when investigated”, and further clarify that “consumers could be confident of getting what they paid for, with more than 94% of all inspected businesses found to be compliant after follow-up audits”.

The drastic turn around in the findings of consumer disadvantage however, have rightly caused a greater focus on the industry, as a result, fuel operators are encouraged to understand the requirements and take steps now to ensure compliance.

There are several requirements under the law that apply to the operation of retail fuel dispensers, that are all aimed at ensuring the customer receives the exact amount of product they are ultimately charged for.  The overarching requirement is that fuel dispensers are accurate at all times; that when a pump displays that it has dispensed 10 litres of product, that the amount dispensed is actually 10 litres.

If you are selling petrol, diesel or LPG you must comply with the following requirements:

–  LPG dispensers must be accurate within the specified tolerances

–  all other fuel dispensers must be accurate within ± 0.3%

–  all volume must be displayed in litres (L)

–  indicators showing unit price ($ per L) and total price ($) must be clearly displayed

– all hoses, nozzles, lights and displays must be in good working order

– all fuel dispensers used for the wholesale and retail sale of petrol, diesel and LPG must be verified and their calibration points sealed by a servicing licensee or trade measurement inspector

–   in the case of multi-product fuel dispensers, each delivery hose is a measuring instrument

–  control systems attached to fuel dispensers are a measuring instrument and must be verified by a servicing licensee or trade measurement inspector.

Of particular interest to the inspectors when visiting sites as part of this campaign will be the requirements pertaining to verification of fuel dispensers and control systems, with inspectors seeking to confirm that the dispensers and control systems have been verified appropriately.

It is a requirement that fuel control systems and fuel dispensers be verified (and their calibration points sealed) by a servicing licensee.  Fuel dispensers cannot be calibrated and verified by just anyone, there is a requirement that they be verified by persons certified by NMI to undertake the verification of fuel dispensers.

The requirement for verification is very specific, verification must be done by a qualified person holding current certification with the regulator.  The frequency of verification however, is less specific.  In order to achieve and demonstrate compliance with the requirement for the fuel dispenser to be accurate at all times regular calibration and verification is recommended.

What is regular will depend on the circumstances onsite, such as; the volume of product dispensed, the age and nature of the pumps themselves, the harshness of the environment (floods, snow and searing heat) and the regular maintenance of the fuel dispenser.  Verification requires that the calibration points of the fuel dispenser are sealed. After any repair or adjustment that affects the calibration, the fuel dispenser will need to be verified again by a qualified and certified servicing licensee.

Where breaches of applicable laws are found, NMI can issue infringement notices with fines of $1,050 for each offence. Where repeat or particularly serious breaches are detected, the matter can be referred for prosecution and maximum penalties of $210,000 per offence as a company or $42,000 per offence as an individual.

The compliance campaign will see NMI visiting retail fuel sites around the country to confirm sites are complying with the requirements under the law.  For more information on the requirements around fuel dispenser and control system verification please see the following links;

NMI – Guide to the Sale of Petrol, Diesel and LPG – https://measurement.gov.au/Publications/trademeasurement/Documents/Guide-to-the-Sale-of-Petrol-Diesel-and-LPG.pdf

NMI – Assistance finding a Servicing Licensee for Fuel Dispensers and Fuel Control Systems – https://measurement.gov.au/Industry/Licensees/Pages/I-need-a-servicing-licensee.aspx