Trading Standards Institute Advice

The sale & delivery of oil & gas

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

Many homes are connected to the mains gas supply. However, there are homes, particularly in rural locations, that are not on the mains network. In these areas oil, butane and propane gas, delivered by tanker, are commonly used for home heating and cooking, often combined with solid fuel and renewable heating.

There are laws that control the sale and delivery of oil, butane and propane gas. Oil and gas must be accurately measured and you should receive a ticket that states how much has been delivered. Unfair trading practices are prohibited and it is an offence for a trader to give a false or misleading statement of quantity.

When you buy bottled gas from a trader, you are making a legally binding contract that is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The law gives you rights and remedies against the trader if the bottled gas fails to meet your expectations.

How is oil measured?

Central heating oil, derv (diesel) and paraffin in bulk are measured by the litre in one of two ways:

  • through a meter on a tanker
  • using a dipstick

Meter deliveries

Oil is pumped from a compartment on the delivery tanker through a meter that has been testing for accuracy and sealed. From there, the oil flows into your tank. Each meter has a ticket printer attached.

Dipstick deliveries

Every compartment on a tanker has a number and its own numbered dipstick marked with graduations and quantities.

Measurement is made by 'dipping' the compartment before the delivery and noting how much oil is present, then 'dipping' after the delivery to calculate how much has been received.

Dipstick deliveries are not as commonplace as they used to be.

Oil deliveries: what to check

Ask the trader if there are any minimum delivery requirements that apply to an order or contracted delivery of oil.

The tank itself, as well as any relevant documentation, may be marked with its capacity. Check with the supplier if you are unsure. If you are still not certain, the capacity of a standard rectangular tank should be easy to calculate. Multiply the tank's height by its width and then by its depth. Measured in metres, this will give an approximation of its cubic capacity in litres. Note the level of fuel in the tank before and after delivery; a similar calculation can then be used to estimate the amount that has been delivered. Your tank may have a 'sight tube' to help with this. If not, you could produce your own dipstick for your tank and note the height increase, or even mark the stick with actual calculated quantity estimates.

If your tank is of irregular shape and its capacity is difficult to calculate or you'd like to double check, you could consider the following:

  • be at home when the delivery is due and watch what happens
  • check (or ask the delivery driver to check) your tank to make sure there is sufficient space to take the entire delivery
  • check that the driver has coupled up to the correct compartment to deliver the fuel you need. Removal of the wrong fuel is costly and time-consuming
  • watch the fuel being transferred, from start to finish

What you are looking for:

  • if your delivery is by meter, the driver must give you a delivery ticket with the quantity on it
  • inspect the ticket put into the meter for printing, before the fuel is transferred to your tank. Make sure it is your ticket that is inserted at the start of the transaction and remains in the meter until it is printed again on completion
  • when the ticket is inserted, check that the meter shows zero. At the end of the delivery, check that the quantity on the meter is the same as on your ticket
  • if you miss the delivery, check the delivery note to make sure it is clear and complete. If you don't receive a delivery note, report it to the supplier or the Citizens Advice consumer service

How is gas measured?

Gas in bulk

Bulk propane is measured by the litre and, like heating oil, is delivered by road tanker if it is for domestic use. The meter used to measure the fuel as it goes from tanker to storage tank is checked and sealed to prevent unauthorised access. Each meter is fitted with a ticket printer. Some meters are fitted with electronic meter heads and the printer for this system may be located in the driver's cab.

Gas deliveries: what to check

  • be at home when the delivery is due and watch what happens
  • check (or ask the delivery driver to check) your tank to make sure there is sufficient space to take the entire delivery
  • the driver must give you a delivery ticket with the quantity on it (this is the difference between one printed quantity number and another). The delivery quantity is then written on the ticket
  • before delivery starts, make sure you see your ticket put into the meter for printing and that it remains in the meter until it is printed again when your delivery is completed
  • once your ticket is inserted, check that the meter shows zero before delivery starts. At the end of the delivery, check that the quantity on the meter is the same as on your ticket
  • check the level on the tank contents float gauge before and after filling. The operator normally fills the tank up to a point where there is a safe space at the top to allow the liquid to form into a gas ('ullage' space)
  • for safety reasons, you should not stay near the vehicle or tank during the filling operation
  • if you miss the delivery, check the delivery note to make sure it is clear and complete. If you do not receive a delivery note, report it to the supplier or the Citizens Advice consumer service

Bottled gas

Bottled gas is sold by reference to the net weight (in kilograms) of the contents, which should be clearly marked on the cylinder and should also state 'butane' or 'propane'.

The bottling plant where the cylinders are filled must use accurate equipment that has been checked and tested to ensure accuracy. Net weight = the weight full (gross weight) less the weight of the container when empty (tare weight). The empty (tare) weight is normally on the neck or rim of the cylinder or on a permanent label.

If a false or misleading statement of quantity has been given, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards as action can be taken against the supplier under the Weights and Measures Act 1985 and/or the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

If you enter into a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices: your rights to redress' guide gives more information.

When you buy bottled gas from a trader, you are making a legally binding contract that is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The law gives you rights and remedies against the trader if the bottled gas fails to meet your expectations.

Key rights - the gas should be:

  • of satisfactory quality - for example, it should burn correctly
  • fit for a particular purpose - for example, it should be compatible with the appliance for which it is specified
  • as described - for example, if it says 'butane' on the cylinder, that is what it should be

The 'Sale & supply of goods: your consumer rights' guide gives more information.

Bottled gas: what to check

  • use a supplier that is known to you or one that has been recommended to you
  • be at home when a delivery is made so you can view it before it is off-loaded
  • check that the amount marked on the cylinders and the number of cylinders corresponds with your order and delivery note
  • check that the plastic seals in the valve, where fitted, are in place
  • bottles should have essential safety information stamped or painted on the side. If the information has been worn or rubbed off, refuse to accept the bottle

Storage conditions

You should consider the hazards of storing oil and gas, as both are highly flammable. Your obligations differ depending upon whether you are storing as a trader or consumer. If in doubt, contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (opens in a new window) for further information:
Redgrave Court, Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside, L20 7HS, Tel: 0300 003 1747

Having made sure you received what you paid for, make sure you keep it and you use it. Fit security devices to your storage tank and access points to it wherever possible.

Points to remember

  • you are entitled to a delivery ticket; get one and check it
  • beware of anyone unexpectedly calling and offering you oil or gas, especially if they do not want to give you a proper ticket
  • if you have any doubts contact the Citizens Advice consumer service

Trade associations

UKLPG (opens in a new window) (trade body for the gas industry) 
Camden House, Warwick Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 1TH

Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) (opens in a new window) (trade body for the heating oil industry)
Foxwood House, Dobbs Lane, Kesgrave, Ipswich, IP5 2QQ
Tel: 01473 626298

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: May 2017

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website (opens in a new window) or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

© 2017 itsa Ltd.