Just about everyone who drives a car or truck loves to complain about prices at the pumps, and with good reason. Quite a few people, though, believe that on top of the near-record high prices at gas stations, the pumps themselves are dispensing less gas than advertised.
Beaconsfield resident Harald Sturm says for the last three years, he's carried calibrated gas containers around to various gas stations to test his theory — and that of many other consumers — that we're somehow not getting a fair shake at the pumps.
"When you get 10 litres, you get 1 litre less," he says. "It happens all the time. The average, I would say, is [a] 10 per cent [loss]"
Sturm insists only once in those three years did he ever get that fair shake at the pumps.
"Once, in all these years...there was one gas station where it was right at the mark," he says. "Only once it happened, and I was amazed."
He admits, however, that even as an automotive engineer with calibrated gasoline containers, it is difficult to prove his suspicions.
George Iny, the president of the Automobile Protection Association, says the APA has tried, and failed, to bring a class-action lawsuit against oil companies based on the exact same suspicions. His organizations based those suspicions on tens of thousands of readings taken by government inspectors over a 10-year period, and tried to claim that consumers were losing millions because of miscalibrated gasoline pumps.
The lawsuit wasn't heard, he says, precisely because his claims were hard to prove.
"In law, we were not able to establish who lost money, and what pump, on what day," he says.
Iny does suggest that while some pumps may be off — because of temperature correction or vapor or other factors — 19 times out of 20, the pumps are pretty accurate.
He does argue, however, that there is a need for better controls.
"There absolutely is a need for more scrutiny," he says. "Anything to do with weights and messrures does erode the public trust. The industry does need to do more to make sure the pumps are reliable."