Petrol Bowsers

Reporter: James Thomas

When consumers are blind, they become vulnerable. Mal Bartlett should know - he heads up the nation's petrol police. A crack team of 100 inspectors scouring the country's bowsers in search of discrepancies."You could look at thousands of dollars in a week."

That's the kind off profit a dodgy station could make by skimming a little extra every time you hit the bowser.We've seen operators fudging the figures for years. In a 2005 crackdown in Victoria 25% of petrol pumps tested were found to be inaccurate by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

"They were locked up and weren't able to be used until they were fixed."In Queensland, a study of 1000 pumps found 5% were faulty. A survey of inspectors by the national measurement institute found 50% of inspectors believe 1 in 20 petrol stations are intentionally ripping customers off.

"I think you'd be having to work pretty hard to pull one over me" says Grant. Grant is part of a new crack team of inspectors assembled under a national umbrella to tackle bowser rip offs. If it can be weighed or measured in millilitres, centigrades, feet, pounds, kilograms or nanometres, Grant is across it with almost religious fervour.

"It is exciting. Every day is different. It is an exciting job. And it is a very important job. I don't know if you know it? Weights and measures as it used to be known, is mentioned in the bible, it is one of the oldest professions" says Grant.Yep, up there with prostitution - weights and measures inspectors have been around forever.

"In the days of Pompeii and that, weights and measures inspectors went around with a couple of centurions by his side to enforce weights and measures requirements. So Leviticus in the bible mentions, " thou shall not have unjust weight or measure." Wow, imagine this guy in the kitchen. He'd have a tablespoon of sugar down pat."I've done it since I was 18 and I am 51."And going strong, like 100 inspectors around the country.

"We're making sure the consumer gets what they pay for and there's no shortfall, and we're also making sure that the trader is not giving too much product away, so we're both checking for short measure and overmeasure" says Daryl.Covering Queensland, Daryl Hines says traders that are found out not complying will feel the full weight of the law."We take incorrect measurement very seriously … the maximum penalty is $110,000" says Daryl.