Be sure to follow correct procedure when fueling

2016-01-26 10:26
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Pietermaritzburg - When Zinhle Dladla fuelled up at a service station on the N3, she had no idea a mix-up at the bowser would result in her missing her brother’s wedding and a R104 000 car repair bill.

Dladla, who was on her way to the wedding in Ladysmith with the wedding cake and some of the wedding party on board on December 5, 2015, said she spent the following weeks frustrated and anxious over whether Shell would pay for the mistake of its petrol attendant at the Shell Ultracity Fast Lane Service Station near Estcourt. The attendant accidentally put petrol into her 2013 Jeep Wrangler, which soon broke down.

“When we were still somewhere along the R103, the car started jerking and showed an engine light. We stopped immediately to check what was wrong and as the only recent thing we had done was pour in fuel, we checked the slip and discovered V-power Nitro -95 instead of diesel 50 [had been fuelled],” said Dladla.

“We called the garage to report this and after several phone calls I was told the car would be towed to the workshop and be drained of all the wrong fuel. We waited for an hour and 30 minutes for that until we called again as no one was reporting back to us,” she said.

Dladla said the bride arranged for a vehicle to collect the wedding cake and party, and she was forced to get a lift with the tow-truck driver to a repair workshop as the service station manager, who gave his name as “Dees”, had declined to provide transport home or back to Fast Lane.

“He said I should call my friends to fetch me [and] he will put petrol for them. He didn’t make this his problem. He kept insisting he was the only person who could help and his hands were tied. Finally, we were left to figure out how to get home,” said Dladla.

“I was patient on that day, understanding mistakes happen. I was not provided a courtesy car and had to make my own means to get home safely, which is about 220 km from there,” said Dladla.

A few days later, Dladla asked me to intervene after her complaint to Shell’s head office appeared to be on the road to no resolution, and while the petrol giant eventually agreed to provide her with a hired car, the problem of the R104 721 engine damage remained.

Fast Lane Service Station director Rupert King referred my questions to head office.

I asked Shell spokesperson Dineo Pooe to comment and she said at the time that the matter was under investigation and the vehicle was at a dealership for “inspection and repair”.

“Fuel contamination in our industry is something that can happen from time to time. Although the incidents are normally isolated, it is an occurrence that is not uncommon,” said Pooe.

“One grade of fuel can be mixed with a totally different grade — that is, petrol with diesel or vice versa. Shell has stringent processes of minimising this situation and all members within our supply chain, including retailers, are carefully trained to ensure this does not happen. However, human error cannot be ruled out,” said Pooe.

“It is our policy to conduct all the necessary tests and determine facts before we reimburse customers, similar to how an assessor would deal with an insurance claim,” she said.

Last week, the service station’s insurer approved the claim to repair Dladla’s vehicle. “The customer has been advised, once all parties agree on the proposed costs, the vehicle will be scheduled for repairs, and the matter will be finalised,” said Pooe.

Gavin Gow Attorneys consumer law specialist Salina Govindsamy said: “While many service station owners take responsibility and pay, some have been known to not be willing to pay. One of the arguments by service station owners is that there are clear disclaimer signs at the service station that state it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the correct fuel is filled into the vehicle. Therefore the filling station is absolved from liability,” she said.

However, according to the CPA, she said an employer will be held vicariously liable for negligence on the part of employees and therefore most claims for engine damage are paid.

Govindsamy advised motorists to keep receipts and to inform the service station immediately of mis-fuelling to ensure there is no inference the damage is due to a different problem. She added that some comprehensive insurance policies cover damage due to mis-fuelling.

“The insured is under a duty to minimise his/her loss. If you are aware that your car was filled with the incorrect fuel and still drive your car afterwards, then you contravene this term of the policy. If mis-fuelling occurs, do not start the car, inform the service station manager and if the car is under warranty then inform the manufacturer,” she said.

Tips when fuelling up:

• always ensure you state the type of fuel required;

• most newer cars have a note on the fuel tank flap stating diesel only. If your diesel car does not have one, write a note and stick it onto the inside of the fuel tank flap;

• always check your receipt to ensure the correct fuel has been dispensed; and

• stop driving the moment you notice the car is not performing properly.

Source: Consumer law specialist Salina Govindsamy.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  consumer  |  fuel

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