A woman from British Columbia has filed a class action lawsuit against Shell Canada. The suit says Shell didn't do enough to notify consumers about a problem with its gasoline.

Shell has admitted an additive that was in its gas can damage fuel gauges or pumps in certain cars. The additive seems to affect DaimlerChrysler vehicles more than others.

Dorothy Young of Port Alberni, B.C. filed a statement of claim in B.C. Supreme Court.

"(Shell) deliberately and wilfully made an economic decision not to recall or replace the Shell Bronze fuel," said the claim.

The gas is causing fuel gauges to register empty even though the tank is full. In some cases, fuel pumps have also been damaged.

Shell officials say a combination of fuel composition, vehicle design and weather conditions causes a layer of sludge to form over the sensor in the gas tank that reads the fuel level.

Problems occurred in a limited number of vehicles

"We extend our sincere apology for any inconvenience this problem may have caused," said Terry Blaney of Shell Canada in a news release today. "The problems have occurred in a narrow range and limited number of vehicles."

The statement also says most of the vehicles affected have been in Alberta and Quebec.

Shell has been quietly compensating consumers for months by offering Air Miles or free gas. The cost of repairs has been borne by car owners and by DaimlerChrysler through warranty programs.

Shell has been quietly compensating consumers for months by offering Air Miles or free gas
Many car owners had to go to mechanics or dealers several times to look at the problem. Mechanics eventually traced the problem back to Shell's gas.

Repairs cost a few hundred dollars, but one driver paid approximately $2,500 to get the gunk scraped out of the fuel injectors.

Garages in Edmonton say they've seen thousands of vehicles and one Dodge dealership in Montreal says it has serviced at least 200 cars.

The problem has also cropped up on Ford, GM, Volvo and Hyundai cars.

Shell has set up a claims number for customers: 1-866-900-9100.

The phone number was distributed to Shell retailers on March 22 this year but they were not instructed to post the warning or the phone number.

"It's a longstanding principle that when you put out something that's defective, you put the word out," says George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association, a consumer advocacy group.

"It would appear the company sort of ducked when they had a decision to make."

Shell has not filed a statement of defence.