Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Supermarket's fuel debt claim prompts shopper's store boycott

A computer expert is boycotting Morrisons supermarket after he was wrongly accused of not paying a fuel bill – owed by a previous owner of his car.

Lee Willis photo
Lee Willis

Lee Willis, 36, was mortified when staff at a petrol station run by the supermarket blocked his attempt to fill up his car, telling him that he needed first to settle an unpaid fuel bill for £46.

He later discovered that the debt was incurred five years earlier – and three years before he bought the car.

Although Morrisons has apologised, Mr Willis, a software expert from Cargo, near Carlisle, says he will shun the store until it ditches its policy of blocking customers based on vehicles linked to unpaid bills rather than checking first whether the current owner is responsible for the debt.

He has now posted the details of his experience with Morrisons last December online in the hope that the firm will abandon what he says is a “bizarre” policy.

“They should check out who owned the car when the bill was not paid before blocking a sale,” said Mr Willis.

“They shouldn’t just rely on a number plate. They’re attaching the debt to the car and not the person.”

Describing the day he was wrongly accused, Mr Willis said he had pulled into a Morrisons petrol station in Banbury, Oxfordshire, when he found the petrol pump refused to accept his cash card.

A member of staff then politely pointed out that he was being refused fuel because he had an unpaid debt.

“I was thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed,” he said.

“I’m not the sort of person to not pay my way and I was truly upset that I had [apparently] made off without paying at some previous point, feeling a bit like a criminal.”

It was only later that he discovered the debt in question dated from January 2009, and was owed by his car’s previous owner. He said the Morrisons worker had suggested the debt transferred to him.

“I was told that no matter whether the car was mine at the time, the registration was on file and Morrisons would not serve me any fuel until the debt was paid.”

He added: “You wonder whether people have been confused into settling other people’s debts.”

In a letter to Mr Willis, Morrisons apologised and said the error had now been rectified on the computer system. Morrisons also offered him £20 in shopping vouchers as a goodwill gesture – which Mr Willis returned.

In a statement yesterday, the firm said: “The car in question had previously been used to steal fuel from the petrol station and therefore we were not prepared to dispense fuel without further investigation.

“It was subsequently confirmed that this occurred before Mr Willis purchased the car and we apologise for any embarrassment this may have caused.”


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