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French fuel shortages: Tips for avoiding petrol thefts

Risk of fuel theft is higher with petrol and diesel currently in short supply at a third of French petrol stations

We look at tips for preventing thieves from being able to steal petrol or diesel from your car fuel tank in France Pic: Virrage Images / Shutterstock

Fuel has become increasingly hard to come by over the last two weeks as strikes at French TotalEnergies and Esso-ExxonMobil refineries continue. 

It means the risk of fuel thefts is higher but there are several ways in which vehicle owners can help avoid having their tanks emptied. 

An estimated six million litres of fuel are stolen in France each year, AutoPlus reports, and HGVs are often the target of thieves. 

However, since the beginning of this year, police forces have received hundreds of reports of fuel thefts from private car owners as well. 

In order to prevent thieves from being able to syphon fuel out of your tank, it is of course helpful to keep your car in a secure garage or car park if possible. 

If not, it is advisable to park so that your fuel cap is close to a wall so as to hinder access to it.

Police forces have also said that car parks and well-lit areas are less often targeted by thieves, so if you have your vehicle parked in a drive, it might be worth considering installing motion sensor lights. 

It is better not to fill up your tank before a long period of absence such as a weekend away or a holiday, as these are the times when thieves often strike. 

If you cannot keep your car in a secure parking space, it may be worth buying a device such as an anti-syphon valve, which stops the flow of liquid back out of the tank. These can either be installed by the car owner or by a mechanic.

Some cars are also fitted with lockable fuel caps, and if not it is possible to replace your existing cap with this more secure option. However, you would need to make sure that the cap is sealed properly, because otherwise it could cause the check engine light to come on. 

In addition, if the thief is prepared to drill a hole in your tank in order to empty it, a locked fuel cap will not help. 

What do thieves risk? 

Stealing fuel is classed as a délit, a crime judged to be more serious than a contravention, which could involve driving offences or disorderly behaviour, for example. 

However, it is less serious than a crime, a category reserved for the worst crimes, like murder and rape. 

People who steal petrol or diesel risk up to six months in prison and a fine of up to €7,500.

However, if someone then decides to resell the stolen fuel, the offence becomes recel de vol (receiving or possessing stolen goods), and the punishment increases to a potential five-year prison sentence and a €375,000 fine.

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French fuel prices rise over €2 a litre in places amid shortages

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