Total SA said it was examining the fuel its sells in the UK after customers complained their cars were malfunctioning.
Tesco Plc and William Morrison Supermarkets Plc said they found no evidence their fuel failed to meet standards. The companies said they were acting on accusations by customers that the fuel they sell may be causing engine problems, after automobiles in London and southeastern England started breaking down.
The government's Trading Standards Institute said it got more than 100 complaints yesterday from people whose cars had engine problems. “It will be a lot more than that by now,” Lou Thomas, a spokeswoman, said today by telephone. The institute's regional branches are doing spot tests on fuel around the country, she said. “We are working with the suppliers in the area to identify and rectify the situation,” Ian Hutchison, a spokesman for Total, said today in a phone interview.
The company had received 12 complaints from customers by the end of yesterday, Hutchinson said. The company's gasoline supplies all met British standards, he said. Morrison, the fourth-biggest UK supermarket chain, tested batches of unleaded fuel and “found no contamination,” the company said today in a statement. Tesco, Britain's biggest food retailer, said yesterday that it was investigating complaints and hadn't found any “abnormalities or contamination.” Greenergy Fuels Ltd., a supplier of fuels to Tesco and Morrison, said it's “doing everything we possibly can to find out what the issue is and whether it is related to us.”
The company said it has conducted “extensive tests” on its fuel and found it met fuel standards. “We can't find any abnormality with the fuel,” spokeswoman Alex Lewis said today by phone. The problems are only related to unleaded fuel as far as the company is aware, she said. Greenergy supplies fuel to Morrison and Tesco from a Royal Vopak NV terminal on the River Thames, which is the focus of the investigation, she said. There is no reason to believe that bioethanol blended with the gasoline is to blame for the engine problems, Lewis said.
Tesco owns 25% of Greenergy. “We believe that a batch of suspect fuel may have damaged sensors in some car fuel systems,” the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said on its Web site. “The effect is to cut power to prevent damage to the engine.” It advised motorists to keep fuel receipts. The Petroleum Industry Association said yesterday it was aware of reports of a “significant number” of breakdowns in car exhaust sensors that caused engine problems. No problems have been reported with the gasoline from UK refineries, the association said.
Asda Group Plc, the UK's second-biggest supermarket chain and the largest international division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., was not immediately available to comment on whether it was checking the fuel it sells. J Sainsbury Plc said in an e-mail it was confident its fuel wasn't contaminated. Daniel Schraibman, a spokesman for Chevron's Texaco retail unit, said the company had had no complaints about its fuel. Motorists with problems should keep receipts from fuel retailers and mechanics, according to Frank Shepherd, a spokesman for Consumer Direct, a government organization that handles consumer complaints. “If a driver can prove the fault is caused by contaminated fuel, they have a right to claim against the seller of the fuel,” he said. (Bloomberg)