Rising gasoline and diesel prices have led to a rise in the number of motorists driving off without paying for fuel, retailers have said.
The Irish Petroleum Retailers Association is demanding an urgent meeting with the Justice Minister to gain access to a national database of licensed drivers and vehicles in a bid to track down those who have not paid.
Association spokesman David Blevings said: “The theft situation has worsened as the retail price rises and retailers are required to report these thefts to Gardaí for follow-up, which is time consuming and not always considered a crime. priority for a busy police force.”
The cost of petrol and diesel has skyrocketed since the start of the war in Ukraine, with prices soaring to €2.20 a liter in many places.
A tax cut by the government to provide relief to consumers has already been “removed” since March, analysts say.
Pressure has mounted for more support to be provided to households amid rising cost of living, with motor fuel prices rising along with household energy bills and grocery costs.
Blevings said that, unlike in the UK, petrol retailers here cannot access the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF), a vehicle ownership database, to allow retailers to go after those who leave without paying.
Figures from the UK suggest a 39% increase in non-payment complaints at garage service stations between January and May this year.
“In Britain, it operates a scheme called BOSS which writes to consumers who commit a drive-off with an 80% recovery rate,” he said.
“We have asked the government on numerous occasions to allow a similar scheme to operate in the Republic, without success.”
The Irish Petroleum Retailers Association expects to meet Justice Minister Helen McEntee in the coming weeks to review the issue, with a view to gaining access to the NVDF to assist its members.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has said the cost of living is a key priority for the Government and “serious discussions” about how to frame Budget 2023 will take place in the coming weeks.
Micheál Martin said the government “fully realized” the difficulties that spiraling costs are creating for people.
He said that while the government has introduced some €2 billion worth of measures to help people cope with rampant inflation, such as cutting public transport fares and increasing fuel allowances, the October is your chance to address the crisis comprehensively.
“We cannot chase inflation from week to week… but we will engage with various stakeholders to deal with the crisis caused by the war, and also by covid and the recovery of the economy.
“What we want to avoid is what happened in the 1970s, which went on for a whole decade, we don’t want that to happen now.”
Mr. Martin said the next budget will be a “cost of living budget” but stressed measures to ease pressure on households would be addressed.