Fraud is a growing problem for any large company and can quickly destroy the trust and reputation of a brand and its products.
The oil industry is not immune: fraudsters and counterfeiters are active across the globe exploiting recognised brands’ investment in delivering legitimate fuels the public have come to know and trust.
The biggest problems occur in developing economies and countries with large remote areas where fraudsters find it easier to carry out their activities without being caught.
In many instances sub-grade fuel, often adulterated with solvents, chemicals and used fuel, is being passing off as high-quality, branded products.
Fuel fraud is not going away, so producers have to face up to it and tackle it head on. Technologies are now available which give oil companies the tools to tackle fuel fraud by protecting their products and brand reputation.
The customer and oil company’s relationship is built on trust. The first time a customer is aware of a fuel problem might be when a vehicle malfunctions; by then it could be too late, and this leaves a lasting impression with the customer and damages the company’s brand reputation.
To prevent this problem, technical and sales and marketing teams in oil companies need to work together, combining knowledge about product development, specification and performance with reputation and brand-building experience gained among retailers and customers.
Brand and fuel marking programmes should form part of this collaboration.
Recent advances in fuel marker technology makes it easier for markers to be part of the original product specification. A small dose enables companies to trace their fuel at any point in the supply chain from refinery to pump.
Also, the latest generation of portable direct read detectors enable quick, accurate and – if necessary – covert tests anywhere in the supply journey. They are particularly useful for the sales and marketing team who can simply and easily authenticate any fuel being sold by the retailer.
Every oil company has the potential to harness knowledge and expertise within the technical and sales and marketing teams to identity problems, deter fraudsters and work towards eliminating fuel fraud. It will also mean that a hard-won reputation will remain intact.