MOBILE apps that let you pay for fuel without having to leave your car are popular among motorists.
But just how safe is it to use your phone at a petrol station – especially given all the warning posters plastered on pumps?
BP’s BPme App land Shell’s Fill Up & Go allows drivers to pay for fuel at the push of a button without having to queue up inside.
Motorists simply need to pull up to a pump and log in to the app, then confirm the pump number and their payment method – and their device’s location services will pinpoint which petrol station they are at.
Then they just refuel as normal, and will receive a confirmation of the complete transaction once they return to their car.
But the apps have raised questions about whether we should really be using our phones so close to flammable fuel.
We’ve all seen the warning signs plastered across the pumps and heard the myths about phones causing ignition or explosion of fuel – but is it actually a realistic threat?
According to the United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA), we don’t have much to worry about when it comes to using our phones within the grounds of a service station.
In fact, their use should only be restricted when in the act of refueling itself – or when you’re actually driving of course.
Directly addressing the issue, the UKPIA website states: “Mobile phones are not designed and certified for use in explosive atmospheres which exist temporarily around the pump and nozzle during refueling as well as around the fill and vent pipes during petrol deliveries.
“While the risk of sparking from mobile phones is low, they are not intrinsically safe devices and should not be used in those hazardous areas that exist on a forecourt.
“Generally, there is no need to restrict the use of mobile telephones in other areas of the forecourt, such as in the shop, in motor vehicles parked on the forecourt or in other non-hazardous areas.”
And while it may not be illegal to use your phone at a petrol pump, most stations will follow strict protocols that mean your pump will be cut off if you try to refuel while using a handheld device.
As UKIPA states, the main reason we are told not to use our phones is because they are a major distraction while refueling – not because they pose a high explosive risk.
How to use the BPme refueling app
- Open the app and enter personal pin or use Touch ID (if supported by the device).
- The app will confirm which station the customer is at.
- Select the corresponding pump number and confirm payment method
- When the ‘Start Fueling’ message appears, leave the phone securely in the vehicle and fill up as normal.
- Once the customer has finished fueling and are back in their vehicle, they will receive confirmation that the transaction has been completed.
- An e-mail receipt will automatically be sent for customer records.
BP went one step further when launching its app, and warned customers to only use their mobile phones from inside their car.
A representative from BP said: “It is safe to use a mobile phone from inside your car on a forecourt, but not outside the vehicle.
“Please follow the instructions both in the app and on the forecourt signage.
“Mobile phones should not be used anywhere on the forecourt apart from inside a customer’s car.”
Designed to make life easier for busy customers or those with kids in the car, the BPme smartphone app can be linked to a driver’s Nectar account, and provides locations of the nearest BP stations as well as giving a transaction history for regular customers.
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BPme can even help motorists offset carbon emissions caused by driving through BP’s Target Neutral program.
Shell was the first to launch a refueling app, Fill Up & Go, when it teamed up with Paypal in 2015.
When first introduced, drivers used a barcode on the side of the pump to check their location, then they were able to refuel as normal and pay automatically through the app.