The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has reinforced its opposition to mandatory prepaid systems for petrol purchases as a means of curtailing petrol theft.

“There are numerous problems and inconveniences associated with mandatory prepaid petrol, not least the fact that such systems would reduce the potential for impulse sales as well as jeopardise customer convenience, both of which are extremely important for these small businesses. After all, petrol is a very low margin product,” said AACS Jeff Rogut.

“These stores prioritise convenience as a key point of difference, however prepaid petrol opens up the possibility for people to underestimate or overestimate how much petrol they need.

“They may have to return to the store, which is decidedly inconvenient, takes more time and will increase congestion, further diminishing the customer experience.

“Then there would also be the enormous cost associated with converting pumps to become compliant for a prepay solution.

“Prepaid petrol is at odds with the convenience store model and will have a negative impact on these businesses. It will undoubtedly jeopardise the very viability of some stores,” he said.

Mr Rogut’s comments come in response to reports in The Age today from Greensborough Highway patrol Senior Sergeant Peter Koger and RACV general manager of public policy Brian Negus calling prepaid purchase an “obvious solution” to petrol theft.

“With respect to Victoria Police and the RACV, these organisations are not experts in retail. They do not have the first-hand experience that our retailers have, and they cannot foresee the damage that prepaid systems would do like we can,” Mr Rogut said.

“It is not appropriate for people whose expertise lies elsewhere than the retail environment to be dictating retail solutions. Instead, the AACS calls for toughened police action, deterrents and penalties against criminals rather than inconveniencing the vast majority of customers who do the right thing,” he said.

The Victorian Government has acknowledged that petrol theft is an issue for businesses and a Parliamentary Committee to investigate petrol theft has been convened at the instigation of Police Minister Wade Noonan.

It’s an issue of growing concern and relevance, Mr Rogut said. For instance, also in today’s media, Former Chief Commissioner Victoria Police Kelvin Glare is reported by the Herald Sun to be “critical of police vacating the field on crime issues like petrol drive offs.”

The AACS State of the Industry report released recently shows that petrol theft was up 6.8% for calendar year 2014. This crime on average now costs the convenience industry approximately $66 million nationally, dramatically affecting the bottom line for franchisees and store operators.

On average store owners are losing around $220 a week from people driving off without paying for petrol. It comes straight off the bottom line, besides which there are safety issues, Mr Rogut said.

“The AACS has suggested loss of licence demerit points and heavy fines as potential deterrents to petrol theft,” Mr Rogut said.Don't try a drive-off here...

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