Garage owners trying to compete with criminal gangs who supply cheaper illegal fuel along the Border are supporting a voluntary independent fuel-testing scheme “so motorists know we sell genuine fuel and we pay our taxes”.
Ray Prunty, who has two filling stations in Castlebellingham, Co Louth, said: "It is all down to pricing and the guy selling illegal fuel has a 50c margin to play with, I have about 5c. With this [scheme], motorists will know our fuel is good and we are tax and Vat-compliant."
Criminal gangs buy green-coloured agricultural diesel for 50c a litre less than the retail price for legitimate auto diesel. They ‘launder’ it to remove the green dye and sell it on at significantly more than they bought it for while still under-cutting garage owners.
The quality-assurance scheme has been introduced by the Irish Petrol Retailers’ Association, which said fuel laundering costs the Exchequer €200 million a year.
“It has a lot of professional people employed in it, it is an industry and it is controlled both sides of the border by criminal fraternities,” said spokesman David Blevins.
The scheme was launched yesterday in Co Louth because "of requests from local retailers", he said.
The 15 garages signed up in Louth so far have already met certain criteria: they must not have been convicted of any Revenue offence and they have had their fuel tested to ensure it meets legal Government specification. It is a voluntary scheme and there is no obligation on any fuel outlet to take part.
They will now be subject to random unannounced testing which, “is the same as that carried out by the State laboratory for use in prosecutions”, said Martin Boylan, of Independent Laboratories in Dublin.
The garages in the scheme will also have a verifiable audit trail guaranteeing it the fuel is authentic and a smartphone app will be available to help motorists identify the nearest forecourt that has signed up to the scheme.
Mr Prunty said: “We need to try and eliminate the illegal fuel being sold. It is squeezing our margins. We want to put a face to the forecourt name so motorists know we sell genuine fuel and we pay our taxes.”
The scheme has the support of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry and the Irish Road Haulage Association.