Know your rights
Your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act mean that fuel bought for your personal use must be:
- of acceptable quality
- fit for purpose
- free of minor defects
If these minimum guarantees aren’t met, you should go back to the petrol station and ask for a remedy that includes repairs, exchange or a refund.
Under the Fair Trading Act, you have protection from:
- false or misleading representations or statements about the fuel or petrol prices
- unsubstantiated claims that have no basis in fact
- unfair sales practices.
The Engine Fuel Specifications Regulations(external link) describe the most important performance properties of your fuel, such as the octane number. They also specify limits for components that could harm you, your vehicle or the environment.
Under the national fuel quality monitoring scheme, Trading Standards (part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) organises testing of petrol and diesel samples to ensure fuel companies are complying with the regulations. Approximately 30–40 samples are tested each month.
Motorists fund the fuel quality monitoring scheme through a small part of the petroleum fuels monitoring levy.
A small number of samples may fail because the fuel has been contaminated somewhere along the distribution chain. For example, some diesel may have mistakenly been put into a service station’s petrol tank.
Accuracy of petrol pumps
Trading Standards appoints Accredited Persons to check that fuel pumps are accurate under the Weights and Measures Act. A certificate of accuracy will be issued and a small adhesive label placed on the pump where you can see it.
While car manufacturers’ stated capacities for fuel tanks are not precise measurements, petrol pumps are calibrated measuring instruments, so they may differ. Also, the design of car fill pipes allows fuel or vapour to sometimes shut off the petrol pump nozzle at an early stage in the fill.
It is safer not to fill the petrol tank right to the top, as petrol will expand – due to the temperature in the car being higher than that in the underground storage tank.
All petrol pumps must be certified accurate.
You should always:
- check that the price on the pump matches the price on the sign
- make sure that the pump is set to zero before you start
- remember the pump number and price so the cashier doesn’t charge you incorrectly
- check your receipt.
Although petrol prices are not regulated, petrol stations can’t get together to fix prices so that there is no competition within a local area. Price-fixing is illegal under the Commerce Act(external link).
Read the Commerce Commission’s factsheet on Price fixing and cartels(external link).