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A recent AAA survey lists the national gas average at $2.58, but every consumer knows that gas prices can fluctuate from week to week, sometimes hitting new lows and highs. That’s why it’s important for consumers to know they’re getting the amount they pay for at the pump.

We occasionally hear complaints from consumers about the short measuring of motor fuel at gas stations. The Division of Standards (DOS) is responsible for enforcing the accuracy requirements and other standards relating to weighing and measuring devices and the use thereof in the sale of food, fuels and other products. They regulate the sale of gasoline and set standards for lubricating oils and antifreeze, including the inspection of all fuel dispensing equipment for required markings pertaining to grade and brand. The Division also tests and approves motor fuel and oil retailers.

It’s important and encouraged to report any discrepancies in gasoline sales to the DOS, but it’s also equally important to know some factors that go into dispensing motor fuel. One thing you might not know is that your vehicle’s fuel tank capacity isn’t exact. While the owner’s manual may read a certain number, this is really just an approximation of how much fuel the tank can hold. The actual capacity of the tank may vary up to 3%.

Dispensing fuel further emphasizes some of the quirks of the gas tank. When you pump fuel into your car, you may end up filling the vapor head space and the fill pipe in addition to the tank itself. Neither the vapor head space nor the fill pipe are accounted for in the vehicle’s fuel tank capacity which could throw off measurements. Even the angle at which you pump gas could impact the fuel measurement.

These same facts apply to one and five gallon containers that can be bought and filled on their own. These containers are designed to fit a bit more gas than the stated quantity to account for product expansion if left in an area where it is exposed to fluctuating temperatures. This explains why you may pump 1.4 gallons into a 1 gallon container and the measurement reading seems to be inaccurate. Consumers should use caution and not go past the stated quantity for safety reasons.

As an aware consumer, you should always keep track of records and receipts, in case you need to settle a dispute. All retail dealers who sell motor fuel must obtain a license from the DOS. If you think a gas station has a faulty pump, be sure to file a complaint with the Division.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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