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U.S. military cracking down on gas coupon sales in U.K.

By WARD SANDERSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 18, 2004

The United States is cracking down on gas coupon sales in Britain.

As of this month, only sponsors — military members and employees, as opposed to family members — can buy the discount coupons. And they can only be used to buy 50 liters’ worth of fuel per week to be used for “duty driving,” such as to and from work. Holiday trips are definitely out.

Apparently, the change is more one of enforcing old rules than it is a whole new idea.

Capt. Heather Healy, spokeswoman for the 3rd Air Force, called it “a reinforcement of a policy that was already in place.” She said teenagers and others had been buying the gas coupons, which allow Americans to buy tax-free gas at stations off post.

“The change was that only entitled people can buy them,” Healy said.

It’s a bit complicated: The coupons are sold by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at air bases, but the program is administered by the Navy. And the authority asking for the crackdown is actually the British government.

“Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Service wants users to understand that tax-free gasoline in the U.K. is a privilege, not a right,” said an AAFES news release.

Debbie Byerly, an AAFES spokeswoman, said many of the details of the arrangement with the United Kingdom were news to officials involved with the coupons.

“We didn’t know a lot of that stuff,” she said.

An Air Force legal officer said coupon policing is necessary to keep the coupons available at all.

“In order to preserve the availability of these coupons through AAFES for official use, entitled personnel must ensure that coupons are purchased and used strictly for authorized duty driving purposes,” said Maj. Robert Cottrell of the 3rd Air Force’s legal office, in a prepared statement.

“… Failure to control and oversee the use of such privileges can result in additional HMCE oversight and possibly loss of such privileges.”


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