One Stop franchisee Dee Sedani has launched a business aimed to help forecourt retailers curb the surge of drive-off incidents.
Dubbed Fuel Guardian, the “time and labour saving” system helps the retailer to automate the traditionally lengthy paper-based process for dealing in these incidents, with “minimal data input”, Sedani told The Grocer.
Using a tablet with the software installed, Fuel Guardian requires forecourt operators to upload three photographs of the motorist entering and exiting the forecourt, and then one of the receipt with the value amount to be paid.
“We then do all the hard work for them,” said Sedani. “Once the retailer has uploaded this information, we reach out to DVLA for registered driver details and then write to the driver advising them on the outstanding amount.
“We allow seven days for payment and if nothing has been received we would send out a final letter with a county court judgment warning, giving them seven more days to pay. If not, a CCJ is raised against the customer for this amount outstanding.”
Fuel Guardian also caters to No Means of Payment cases, when a driver has forgotten to bring card or cash to pay for the fuel. In these incidents, the customer fills in their name, phone number and car registration to the tablet.
Fuel Guardian then sends them a payment link via email and text. If if the payment is not settled within seven days, then the same procedure used for drive-offs is pursued.
“Either way, a retailer has zero effort to put in, apart from photos and some basic text in any situation, and this allows them to know we are handling and chasing the case for them,” Sedani added.
Fuel Guardian is being trialled at nine sites, with MFG, SGN Retail, MPK Garages and independent retailer Paul Cheema. It is a free service provider, minus the £250 fee for the tablet plus VAT.
MPK Garages retail director Wayne Harrand said: “The system allows us to automate and track no means of payment and drive-offs, which requires minimal data input. Most importantly for us, we recover the full amount of the drive-off or no means of payment with these cases.”
The business has a team of software developers and administrators to handle cases. It also has Michael O’Loughlin, MD of 360 Degrees Retail, as its “expert consultant in the field and our guide to ensure we are on track with retailer needs”.
“We are very passionate about delivering the best results in the industry and this has been proven by our recent track record and we are fully set up to handle any volume,” said Sedani.
According to the British Oil Security Syndicate, which also operates a fuel debt recovery service called Payment Watch, unpaid fuel incidents have risen by 30% since 2019, with an estimated 1.5 million incidents occurring during the past 12 months. The organisation said a third of these were a result of drive offs, while the remaining cases were due to no means of payment.
BOSS operations director Bruce Nichol said: “Incidents of unpaid fuel are at an unacceptable level. It cost UK forecourt operators millions of pounds annually and customers driving away without paying leads to lost revenue and increased operational expenses. We encourage forecourt operators to be vigilant, especially at peak periods when most incidents tend to be reported.”