Forecourt Trader
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Drive-off penalty confusion

30 January, 2009
Page 4 
Well, first let me say, how can there be such confusion over the proposals about the introduction of on-the-spot penalties for drive-offs? Firstly, the suggestion of a drive-off penalty was buried among the 'extra measures' being proposed to add to the current Penalty Notice Disorder. Then all of these proposals - which included an £80 fine for shop staff selling tobacco to under-18s - were withdrawn almost as soon as they were announced. By all accounts the government seemed to be enacting the penalties without any apparent consultation. And now there seems to be no answer to the subsequent "when and for how long" questions about any future consultation. And this is before the petrol retailing industry as a whole has decided whether such a penalty scheme for drive-offs - which cost the industry the very serious matter of £30m a year - would be a good thing or bad. For example BOSS, which represents UK service stations, seems in this instance to have completely opposing views to the retailers running them. How can that be?
It shows there is a clear need for a strong association to bring together the opinions of everyone in the industry to make the appropriate representations to government at the right time. At one stage that would have been the role of the Petrol Retailers' Association, but a lot of people feel it has lost its way and no longer support it. It is now undergoing a fundamental review (see News Extra p10) and its director Ray Holloway is asking retailers for their opinions as to what they would want in a reconstructed association. Everyone should participate - member or not - or not complain if they don't get what they want!