Incidents of unpaid fuel have been rising and are now 28% higher than pre-pandemic according to an analysis of unpaid fuel reports from BOSS, the British Oil Security Syndicate.
In Q1 2020 the Forecourt Crime Index stood at 199 while in Q2 2023 it had risen to 256, a rise of 28.6%.
Fluctuating fuel prices make it difficult to detail the total cost of forecourt fuel crime at any one time. However, in 2019 BOSS research estimated forecourt fuel crime cost forecourt operators £88 million per annum when fuel prices peaked at 130.8 pence per litre (ppl).
Average September fuel prices were 155 ppl for unleaded and escalating fuel prices in recent weeks indicate that the unpaid fuel incidents could be costing forecourt retailers close to £100 million p.a. at current prices.
Before the pandemic, DO-FP was about two-thirds of all incidents. But now two-thirds of all incidents are NMoP. And 65% of DO-FP records a motorist enters the store and leaves without paying for fuel.
Forecourt fuel crime falls into two categories. Firstly, a Drive-Off-Failure-to-Pay (DO-FP) when motorists leave a forecourt without paying for fuel, and secondly, drivers claiming to have No Means of Payment (NMoP), they then agree to pay within an agreed time scale, but subsequently do not pay.
Historically driving away without paying for fuel was the dominant type of forecourt fuel crime – it accounted for about two-thirds of all reports…but not any more. Since the pandemic, NMoP has grown steadily and surpassed DO-FP incidents as the largest element of unpaid fuel incident reports. NMoP now represents two-thirds of all unpaid fuel incident reports.
In terms of actual incident numbers we estimate that there are around 1.5 million, the BOSS Payment Watch service records around 800,000 unpaid fuel incidents annually. Currently BOSS estimate that annually there are some 1.5 million unpaid fuel incidents nationally.