NMI will not disclose results of reported underdelivering petrol bowsers

I regularly fill jerry cans at service stations and I know exactly the level in the can that 20 litres comes to. I recently filled the same jerry can to the exact same level and the bowser read 22 litres. I reported this to the National Measurement Institute (NMI) and asked to be informed of the results of their investigation. They refused to do this citing privacy concerns. This is a denial of natural justice as I have no proof the under delivery of fuel. I am of the opinion that service stations can now act with relative impunity maybe receiving a small fine for breaches. Most motorists would be unaware they are receiving short measure. I service stations were held accountable to their customers and made to reimburse them for the shortfall of fuel they would be more inclined to engage in unconscionable practices What can be done to address this issue?


This is an aspect of the failure of responsive government. Businesses that do wrong are protected under privacy, and the public who is victimised are often never aware. This includes dodgy scales and pumps as well as (in most jurisdictions) refusal to publish the results of health inspections for food-related businesses.

No routine checks on the bowsers/scales, no significant penalties for having dodgy meters/scales, no “red tape”, no public records of dodgy operations, and no worries for the business are the governmental priorities. I agree it is an appalling state of affairs, but governments of all persuasions have had stone heads on these issues, ostensibly to not tar businesses having made “honest mistakes” that are quickly rectified.

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Hi @jimbob628,
You might find this interesting reading: An NMI audit from early 2015 found one in five pumps return measurement errors that short-changed consumers. There were also a similar number of errors that benefited consumers.

“Drivers of Australia’s top-selling Toyota Corolla travelling an average distance would be ripped off at least $2.65 if they used a “short measure” pump all year, according to RACV calculations.” Assuming the calculations are accurate, at least the cost of the errors is fairly minor.

You could raise your concerns with Greg Hunt’s office ( as the NMI is part of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science) if you wanted to take it further.


The amount of fuel involved was 2 litres in a 20 litre drum i.e. pump read 22 litres a 10% error. I normally buy 130 to 140 litres at a time so we are talking 13 to 14 litres of overcharge of $13 up to $18 depending on the price of fuel.

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Brendan, some readers could interpret your comments as implying "since it is a minor error it is not of consequence and we should just get over it. " ( Further comment would take my post into the realm of politics so I will stop with that thought. ) Is that really the intent?

In some jurisdictions the rule is business can deliver too much but never less than claimed to reinforce public trust in the system.

My apologies @pdtbaum, that’s not the intention and it does read that way. I only meant to say at least the cost to consumer appears minor in most cases, but I should have added that is not to say it is of no consequence. I should also add that I personally agree with the RACV’s comment in the above article that the NMI should make this information available, especially so if a warning or fine is issued. Surely the administrative cost of doing so would be low, and the benefit would be more trust in the system and an avenue for consumers to receive compensation in the case of a significant error.

@jimbob628 thanks for that extra info. If you make a case to the minister’s office, you could also a mention the possibility of an FOI request, and ask if they’d be willing to make a special case instead. Also, considering you’re buying such large amounts of fuel, if possible you could make a case with the service station manager and appeal for them to provide the information as a courtesy to a good customer. I realise this doesn’t address the issue of disclosure, but it might help out your individual case.

Either way, please let us know how you go.

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I have a few problems with the report Brendan. Firstly it was produced before the decision to not disclose the results of audits to the public was made. Secondly, there is no information on the degree of error on the pumps tested and lastly the Corolla example gives no indication as to whether the hypothetical “short measure:” is an average of all short measure pumps, the least or most over reading pump

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Brendan, what I would like to see is rather than redress for myself but rather a national register where by motorists and particularly truck drivers (my son often buys $400 worth of diesel at a time) can seek redress from petrol stations that are deliberately cheating the public. By letting petrol stations know that they do not have the freedom to steal from the public with little or no penalty (One fine of $850 presumably for repeat offenses), they will stop such odious practices.

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I agree, the information should be made available.

I managed a Roadhouse /Service Station in the NT way back in the 90`s and was amazed initially at the variation in petrol quantities being delivered via the pumps, depending on the time/heat of the day. This variation (which was quite alarming) showed up especially in the morning fuel tank dips, indicating a deficit from what should have been there.

The “Wholesale Distributor” always managed to program his delivery tanker to arrive at between 1 and 2 pm, the hottest time of the day, thus topping the tanks with heat expanded fuel. The following morning, after careful calculating of “after delivery fuel sales” the tanks were dipped and the deficit in total showed significantly.

The Distributor was made aware of this problem but refused to do anything about it, consequently the owners were advised, but they refused to acknowledge a problem, resulting in everyone continually being “ripped off”

The normal Summer heat temperature around 2pm was invariably around 44/45oC, requiring the use of water sprinklers
across the driveway to dissipate some of the heat and allowing the pumps to pump fuel.

My advice to anyone concerned about getting short-changed is to refuel their vehicle as early as possible in the morning, whilst the fuel is still cool and relatively un-expanded.


Thank you for this! I had heard about this problem before and completely forgot. I’m now going to fill up first thing in the morning.

Thanks for the advice bevang. I was aware of the effect of temperature on the weight of fuel delivered and always fill up at the coldest time of day. The time I was short delivered was middle of winter. I am of the opinion that a bowser will deliver the same volume of fuel regardless of temperature regardless of temperature. What changes with temperature is the fuel’s density and hence the weight of one litre of fuel is less at higher temperatures than at lower temperatures or to put it another way one kilogram of fuel occupies more space at higher temperatures than at lower temperatures. I would hope a bowser deliverers one litre of fuel at all temperatures but this may not be the case. Bevang I am not sure what the situation is these days in Victoria with service stations having the price of bulk delivered fuel adjusted to the 15 deg C Australian standard is but I am pretty certain that there is no adjustment for the long suffering motorist the article https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/SLS/RIS_EN/2003/03SL024R.pdf I found most interesting as it appears fuel is volume measured for delivery at the refinery at 40 deg C. Does anyone know the current state of legislation?

I also reported similar issues to Woolworths. Our Nissan has a 70 litre tank. The pumps at Woolworths service stations have indicated required 74-76 litres to fill. I received a call from a regional manager who promised to investigate and report back. No further calls were received.

If you have the details in your records, post it on their facebook page. Many things that otherwise get into black holes get a bit of attention when they become public on that forum :slight_smile:


I notice that RACV have stopped posting the twice daily fuel for individual petrol stations on their website. I have also seen a news article where a deal was struck between the petrol industry and the ACCC for them to not be required to publish individual petrol station pricing in South Australia though I do believe NSW has State legislation that still compels the publication of individual pricing. Yet another blow to the long suffering motorist.

Pollies who are often easily influenced by industry lobbyists consider blocking transparent daily pricing comparisons as a big win for business profits (and donations?) rather than a blow for anyone. Funny, those priorities.

Our local Coles Shell has quietly increased the spread between 91 and 98 from $0.18 to $0.20/l. The Woolies Caltex 1km down the road is still at $0.18 spread. Since there is no street signage for 98 pricing people just drive in, fill up, and assume all the servos have the same spread/price against 91. An easy ripoff for those who don’t pay attention at the bowser. I stopped buying Shell.

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The Fuel Price Spread in Brisbane between 91 to 98 Octane can be as much as 17 cents/L. The spread between 91 and 95 Octane is about 10 cents/L. I can never quite understand how the 4 Octane increase between 91 and 95 is so expensive compared to the 3 Octane increase between 95 and 98. So wherever you only pay an 8 or 10 cent spread you are doing very well compared to SE Qld.

Maybe Choice could do some research on the way the different Octane ratings are priced so differently.

Not sure where my mind was, but I corrected the spread :expressionless: Apologies.

It’s worth noting that the fuel tank capacity that is quoted by the manufacturer is often exactly that - the capacity of the tank itself. It won’t include the extra litres that you can pump into the vapour headspace / filler neck, especially if you “top off” the tank with as much as you can squeeze in there. Depending on the vehicle size and location of the tank relative to the filler cap, the neck could easily explain those extra litres.

There is also the issue of averaging for some types of tank manufacturing processes. So, the average of a selection of tanks coming off the production line might be rounded off to 70 litres, but individual tanks will hold more or less than exactly 70.

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Thanks Scott.

I had considered that but the obvious counterpoint is that I was never completely empty when refilling. Otherwise I would have been stranded on a road somewhere.

I should also mention that I do not have similar experiences when refilling at BP service stations.THis is why I raised the matter with Woolworth’s.