When Michael Tobin filled up his car in preparation for a Queensland family holiday, he never thought the fuel stop would cost him $4600, three days accommodation and a legal battle with a global fuel company.

Mr Tobin, left the Puma service station at Heddon Greta and just two kilometres away, engine warning lights in his Toyota Hilux lit up – the result of a tank full of what he claims was contaminated fuel.

Fuel from the diesel 4WD, which had been serviced only a week earlier, was tested and found to have contained excessive amounts of water.

Mr Tobin and his wife, from Kurri Kurri, were leaving on a road trip to Queensland the following day but instead had to fly there three days later and pay for a hire car to get around.

Mr Tobin has now sought legal advice and through his lawyer submitted a claim for $6000 to the fuel company which to date has not accepted responsibility. “I have receipt for the fuel purchase, a report from the mechanic and from the place I had the fuel tested,” Mr Tobin said. “My solicitor has sent Puma a letter of demand with copies of all the evidence but they deny everything.”

Lee-Anne McAllister from McAllister Legal Services said she will now start legal proceedings against Puma Energy.

“Mr Tobin has a strong case,” she said. “It seems pretty clear what’s happened and he’d only had the car serviced a week prior.”

Ms McAllister said the independent fuel report said samples taken from Mr Tobin’s tank revealed a “hazy clarity, particulates and 432 parts per million of water present” which was highlighted as being abnormal. She said Mr Tobin called the service station and was told: ‘You can’t prove anything. Get the fuel tested.’

She wrote to Puma seeking compensation only to receive a letter from the company’s claims consultant which said investigations had been carried out and there were ‘no defects in the quality of fuel sold at Kurri Kurri’. 

Puma has strongly denied they caused any contamination.

The letter said: “Puma Energy is not responsible for the issues with your vehicle and will not be reimbursing the amount you have claimed.”

The Mercury contacted Puma Energy for comment but had not received a response by Press time.

Mr Tobin is seeking compensation for the repairs carried out on his car, the cost of the fuel testing, his air fares to Queensland and the cost of a hire car.

“He had to cut his 10-day holiday short so he travelled to Queensland late and came home early. It was supposed to be a road trip, everything was booked and paid for,” Ms McAllister said.

Mr Tobin wanted to tell his story to warn motorists of the damage that can be caused by contaminated fuel, and to ensure when buying petrol they are sure to obtain a receipt for proof of purchase.

It was reported last week that a number of vehicles have been forced off the road in Victoria after being filled with contaminated diesel in Ballarat.

A Caltex spokesperson said the company was working with six customers impacted by water contamination in diesel fuel dispensed from two pumps at its Wendouree store.

One customer filled her new $80,000 Toyota Prado with diesel but took the four-week-old car to a mechanic after a dashboard signal showed water in the fuel tank.

Extracted from Maitland Mercury