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Face up to fuel fraud: the risk of customer claims

Why should fuel companies behave like the world’s most-respected retailers when it comes to protecting consumer rights?

With increased living standards in both developed countries and emerging economies, the number of vehicles sold is predicted to increase to 80 million by the end of 2019.

Today’s customers want better performance, price and consistency from their vehicles – and that includes the fuel they put in the tank.

Simultaneously, the more technically-advanced cars, vans and trucks on the road cost more to repair. Equally, they need a higher grade of fuel to optimise performance while the price to repair engine damage caused by any adulterated fuel has also increased.

Customers care about their rights and, with a greater availability of information, are more willing to make a claim. The increase in vehicle ownership worldwide poses a potential increase in the number of claims against oil companies if fraud affects the fuel supply chain.

For example, in South America many retail gas stations are located in remote locations, raising the risk of fuel fraud and adulteration. Oil companies need to protect their branded petroleum products against gas stations selling counterfeit fuels and creating possible damage claims.

As more oil companies have started to recognise the importance of brand reputation, this should also influence their response to motorists making claims for the effects of alleged fuel fraud.

Facing up to fuel fraud – the customer experience

When a motorist suspects that adulterated fuel has harmed their car and therefore makes a claim, the driver still needs to pay up-front for repairs to get the vehicle back on the road.

Meanwhile, the fuel retailer asks for proof of purchase and a process begins that can often take months to resolve. The customer might be left wondering whether they will ever get their money back – and this increases the chance of unhappy motorists sharing their frustration on social media or in the media .

And, for the oil company, it’s important not to underestimate the time, cost and effort needed to resolve a customer claim, including the tracking and analysis of the fuel and the supply chain.

Facing up to fuel fraud and the customer experience means settling a genuine claim quickly. This is about a commitment to consumer rights and, potentially, gaining credit for the speed of resolution rather than inviting public criticism for unnecessary delay.

Fuel marking: an oil company’s guarantee

Oil companies taking action to protect the fuel supply chain and offer a guarantee of authenticity for their fuel are ultimately protecting consumer rights and their own businesses from fraudulent claims.

A fuel marker unique to each fuel retailer gives a company’s petroleum products the equivalent of a “fingerprint” which proves the products’ integrity. Also, data captured by testing teams can track and identify fuel fraud, speeding up the investigation process.

For example, one additive manufacturer uses John Hogg fuel markers when supplying additive packages to a Europe-based fuel company. This helps the fuel company to identify any instances of additive under-dosing which affects fuel quality and can lead to motorist claims for engine trouble.

Fuel marking can also tackle the risks of fuel dilution. One European renewable energy company is currently exploring a marking programme to prove the integrity of its biofuels across its global markets.

Adding a marker at the right place in the supply chain – where a problem is highlighted – will prove the oil company’s fuel as authentic.

This means oil companies can – with a simple test – be sure whether a motorist has bought their fuel or an adulterated version. Being able to confirm the facts quickly reduces the time to pay a valid claim or reject a false allegation.

With oil companies working harder to build more trust with their customers, fuel marking supports this ambition, builds a stronger reputation and protects against financial fraud.

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