News / Edmonton

Mandatory pre-pay at gas stations coming to Alberta

Customers will have the option to pay at the pump if the technology is available, or at stores

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey / Metro Order this photo

Prepare to pre-pay, whether at the pump or in the store.

The Alberta government has introduced Bill 19, An Act to Protect Gas and Convenience Store Workers, which would make pre-payment for fuel at gas stations and convenience stores mandatory.

Minister of Labour Christina Gray made the announcement Monday, noting that over the last three years, gas and dash incidents and robberies have killed five workers and seriously injured three others in Alberta.

Customers will not necessarily have to pay at the pump -- retailers will also have the option of having customers pay the attendant in store before fueling.

John Csek, who was fuelling up at a Petro gas station Monday, said he supports the legislation and doesn’t expect it to inconvenience motorists much. He himself once witnessed a gas and dash and believes pre-payment is safer. 

“I think it should be like that anyway, you won’t have the thefts and you won’t have people stealing gas … Nobody should be chasing people because they could get hurt,” he said.

But Gray said they know it will be an "adjustment" for retailers. "Our goal is to protect workers, not create hardship for owners,” she said.

John Csek doesn't believe mandatory pre-payment at gas stations will inconvenience drivers much.

Omar Mosleh/Metro

John Csek doesn't believe mandatory pre-payment at gas stations will inconvenience drivers much.

Furthermore, the province will also require all stores to have a violence prevention plan, as well as measures such as time-locked safes with no overnight access, minimal amounts of cash on hand and video monitoring.

Retailers will also have to limit their overnight stock of tobacco and lottery tickets, ensure good visibility inside and outside and provide workers with personal emergency transmitters in the case of an emergency.

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht, speaking on behalf of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, said the legislation is a "no brainer".

He said the association estimates about 4,000 gas and dash incidents occur in Alberta annually. Edmonton has seen 583 incidents at 167 locations this year.

“In addition to saving lives, mandatory use of pre-paid pumps will save the Edmonton Police Service countless hours spent responding to and investigating gasoline thefts,” Knecht said.

“It’s so rare that we have a clear, established and highly effective solution to a common crime.”

Lawrence Richler, vice-president of Canadian Products Marketing for Husky Energy, said the death of Surunder Pal Singh at a Husky following an altercation over payment in 2015 prompted the company to strengthen their safety protocols, including a move to mandatory-pre-pay.

He recently asked an employee, without identifying his title, what effect the pre-pay system had on customers. The worker said after a few days of adjusting, it was business as usual.

But when he asked her what effect the change made for her as a worker, she had a very different response.

“She stopped processing my car wash payment, she looked me in the eye and she said she was ecstatic and relieved, she felt so much better and safer at work,” Richler said.

“I’ve been in this business for 40 years. I was at that moment, never so proud of a business decision that I had been a part of.”

Gray said Occupational Health & Safety would work with gas stations in smaller, rural communities to adapt to pre-pay if they can’t control their pumps from within the store.

If passed, the proposed legislation will come into effect June 1, 2018.

This article has been updated to reflect that Surunder Pal Singh was killed in an altercation over payment, not a robbery. 

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