Opinions

Pumps hardly hosing Canadians

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Stop the presses, Canadians are getting hosed at the pump. At least that's what a Canwest News Service investigation found. Five per cent of gas pumps tested in Canada failed government inspections by pumping out less gas than they should have, most of them between 30 and 60 cents less.

As gas prices skyrocket, everything surrounding the oil industry, gas stations and their gas pumps will be under a microscope as people try to save money. This issue has gotten some play down in the U.S. as well as similar investigations examined gas pumps and their inspection procedures. The complaints in both Canada and the U.S. centred on people not getting their money's worth. If the issue is how much money you're spending at the pumps, then instead of focusing on the loose change that you might be losing if you happen to hit a faulty pump, focus on behavioural decisions that lower gas consumption and save money­--such as driving one day less a week or carpooling.

Inaccurate pumps are a minor problem that can easily be addressed by increasing inspections, something federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice already ordered earlier this week. Unfortunately, this minor problem has been inflated. The NDP have taken on this issue as another corporations are shafting hard-working, honest, tax-paying Canadians issue.

"This confirms the suspicion that millions of Canadians have had," federal NDP leader Jack Layton told Canwest News Service. "That they are being hosed at the pump."

The words are strong, but if a Canadian loses 60 cents each time they fill their tank, and they fill it up once every two weeks, it would cost $15.60 a year--assuming they fill up at the same pump for the entire year, which may be a stretch.

A year ago, the NDP introduced a private member's bill to establish an ombudsman to field complaints and protect consumers from "unfair gas pricing," which likely means prices the NDP felt were too high for consumers. For a party trying to attack the Conservatives on their terrible environmental record, aiming to lower gas prices for consumers and getting them more gas for their money is hypocritical.

A Calgary Herald reader suggested a simple cost-saving measure in a letter published Sunday. Drive 10 kilometres per hour slower and take an extra few minutes to do a long drive. Gas pump inspections should, and will, happen, but this issue was portrayed as larger than it is. People should make more behavioural decisions to save money on gas, rather than looking for others to help them.

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Comments

@ The Writer of this article

"...if a Canadian loses 60 cents each time they fill their tank, and they fill it up once every two weeks, it would cost $15.60 a year"

Exactly. I thank you for realizing that this is a major issue for Canadians, including myself. I fill up twice a week, and yes, at the same 2 gas stations 95% of the time (you know, the 2 that are closest to where I live). I wouldn't care if I lost $15.60 a year...pfff, I'd be happy if that was all the money I lost in a year, but you best believe that I would mind if I knew that somebody stole $15.60 of mine each year. If 5% of the population is getting "HOSED" at the pump, that would mean 1.5 million people would be losing $15.60 a month. Do the math Mr. Brains. That's $23.4 million dollars are being stolen from Canadian drivers each year. Would we put up with our government stealing that much money from us each year? No. So why should we sit back and share your "Oh, it's only $15.60 a year" attitude and take it up the backdoor while gas stations are the ones reaping the rewards?

Give you head a shake!

Paul,

5 per cent of the pumps tested had measurement errors, most of between 30 and 60 cents. That means that the average member of that 5 per cent group got short-changed by 45 cents and given the "filling up every 2 weeks at the same pump" scenario postulated by Jon, they'd be losing $11.70 per year.

Losing $11.70 is bad, but only the "average" member of that 5 per cent group of Canadians is losing that much. The sum total would be around $17.6 million lost by Canadian consumers, and it's hard to estimate how expensive it would be to hire enough testers to test enough gas pumps to make a difference.

It's also worth noting that the CanWest study was done between 1999 and 2007, so a lot of the data collected may already be outdated.

All that the average tells us is that the $15.60 per year is the middle of all the deviations from what should be charged. Without knowing how these pumps are spatially or temporally distributed, it's difficult to know if one is being screwed.

It could be that there are exactly two types of gas pumps, one which overcharged by $115 per year, and another which undercharged by $85 per year, co-existing now, or existing temporally in that order. It would hardly be wise for the consumer to complain if it were the case that we were now being undercharged significantly, averaging out years of being overcharged in the past.

This is also why we shouldn't let (most) journalists casually use statistics as news.