Hundreds of UK cars breakdown after using fuel probably blended with biofuels
This is the mainline headline in the UK today. Fuel from Greenergy – a biofuel supplier – is linked to hundreds of cars breaking down with contaminated fuel.
Petrol retailers say fuel is safe
Ethanol content should be made clear
Petrol retailers have insisted that their fuel is safe, despite hundreds of complaints that cars have broken down after leaving forecourts.
Trading standards officials have launched an investigation after drivers in south-east England said that they had been sold "contaminated" fuel.
Motorists believe they may have been sold petrol containing ethanol, which has damaged their cars.
Their say their vehicles have juddered, misfired and suffered a loss of power.
The RAC said the problem seemed to be particularly affecting the oxygen sensors in vehicles.
Oxygen sensors are attached to the exhaust and determine the mix of oxygen and petrol supplied to the engine.
The BBC has received more than 1,000 e-mails from motorists who say their vehicles may have been affected.
Independent oil company Greenergy said it was testing fuel supplied to Tesco and Morrisons to see if it was faulty.
Greenergy, which supplies "greener" fuels, said its "extensive" tests on the batch of fuel supplied to Tesco and Morrisons showed that it met industry standards, but it was continuing its investigation.
A spokeswoman said the fuel contained up to 5% bio-ethanol, which was within permitted limits.
The company added in a statement: "Greenergy has been made aware that some drivers using our fuels are experiencing some problems. We take this very seriously."
At this stage we can't trace the problem back to Tesco fuel
Jonathan Church, Tesco media director
Trading standards said its officials were also testing a number of samples but had not yet had the results.
Ian Hillier, a petroleum spokesman for the Trading Standards Institute, said: "I understand that there have been around 75-100 complaints from people in south-east England .
"Including ethanol in petrol is not really contaminating it, but there has to be a clear warning to people who buy petrol as to exactly what is in it."
The penalty for supplying fuel which does not meet industry standards is a £5,000 fine.
HAVE YOUR SAY
One of these stations had strange additives in their fuel
Michael Gibson, West Byfleet
Jonathan Church, Tesco's media director, said the company was testing fuel from a terminal in Essex .
"We've tested and re-tested including from some of the vehicles that have had reported problems and we actually can't find an issue.
"So at this stage we can't trace the problem back to Tesco fuel. That said, obviously we're continuing to work with our supplier to see if we can find a problem and if there is one we'll let customers know."
Morrisons also issued a statement following the complaints. The chain insisted it had found nothing wrong with fuel bought from its stores.
"Morrisons suppliers test every batch of unleaded petrol to ensure that it meets British and European standards."
AA technical specialist Vanessa Guyll said drivers would notice problems with the running of their cars almost immediately, and providing they sought help quickly, it was unlikely the "contaminated" petrol would cause any long-term damage to engines.
Christopher MacGowan of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said thousands of motorists had been affected, most of whom had vehicles that were more than three-years-old.
It started misfiring and juddering
He said: "I think that we've got a corridor in east Anglia , London and the South East where somehow a dodgy batch of petrol has crept into the system.
"In the context of over 28 million vehicles on the road, you have to keep it in proportion, but it is serious, and it's very very unpleasant for those several thousand drivers who've experienced this problem," he added.
Some car dealerships say they are trying to repair damaged cars, many of which are now off the road, but the parts they need are now in short supply.
Michelle Shambrook from advice service Consumer Direct told the BBC that motorists affected would be able to claim for the damage caused.
She added: "If consumers are able to establish that the problem has definitely has been caused by contamination of fuel that they've purchased, then they are clearly protected by legislation."