Beware the DVLA clamp!

Some useful clarifications of the changes to road tax. More


See our information gateways on:
> What is happening after the end of paper tax discs in the UK? More
> NEWS items on the Historic Vehicle status & VED exemption
. More

Unintended consequences of ending the paper tax disc
The proportion of cars being driven untaxed on UK roads has risen from 0.6% two years ago to 1.4% according to an official Government roadside survey conducted at 256 locations around the country. That is equivalent to more than 500,000 untaxed vehicles. The Government estimates that £80m a year is now lost to through unpaid road tax, £45m more than two years ago. That loss is far higher than the £7m of annual administrative savings it said it would make by abolishing paper tax discs.
Unintended consequences
Sunday Times report. 160117

What is the legislation regarding the cancellation of road tax upon the sale of a car?
Despite the firm statement on the GOV.UK website- “You need to tax a vehicle before driving it. That includes driving home from a dealer’s forecourt or a private seller’s home” - we believe that is not correct where there is a current VED. A review of the legislation in our article shows the existing VED is not cancelled until the DVLA receives notification of the change of registered keeper (from a sale or transfer of the vehicle) so consequently the existing VED remains valid until then. If the V5C with details of the new registered keeper is mailed to DVLA on the day of the sale it will not reach DVLA until the following day at the earliest. So that will enable a buyer to drive the car home on the existing VED on the day of the purchase.

However if the vehicle is then left parked on the public highway outside the new owner’s house before the new owner has got a new VED but after the DVLA has updated its data base following its receipt of the V5C with a notice of change of keeper and the cancellation of the original VED, then the new owner is at risk the vehicle could be clamped.
So we believe the buyer has time to drive the car home on the day of the purchase but then has to get a new VED for the car very promptly once home.


How can I check the current VED and MOT status for a vehicle?
The GOV.UK website has a Vehicle Enquiry Service (VES) where you can make a simple online check. When you use this website do remember to enter the registration number in the correct format because if you don't the system rejects your search! So for example PPP 888M with no space between "888" and "M". GOV.UK VES

Credit: image above is reproduced from an article in the Driving section of the Sunday Times on 17th January 2016.

Posted: 160118


Worrying faults with the new system of monitoring road tax after the end of paper discs and the introduction of an automatic VED cancellation system when a car is sold are highlighted in an article in the Sunday Times today. It's essential reading as a caution.

In the case they report a retired solicitor returned to his car parked in Bristol, after he and his wife had done some last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve, only to find their car clamped and a note on the windscreen saying the car was untaxed. The driver thought "No, that can't be the case because I taxed it for 12 months on the day I bought the car in September", just three months beforehand. As he and his wife were away from home visiting their daughter for
Christmas the only documentation proving the car was taxed was at home some 200 miles away! It was dark, drizzling with rain and everywhere was closed for Christmas. They were seriously inconvenienced and annoyed but fortunately only mile or so from their daughter's house, so walked back. For someone stranded in a different situation it could have been very serious.

What has caused this problem?
Several major changes came with DVLA's new system for administering vehicle tax: first the end of the paper tax disc on the windscreen, second a reliance on automatic number plate recognition technology (ANPR) linked to a DVLA database recording the VED status of all vehicles and third the automatic cancellation of existing road tax when a car changes ownership on a sale or a family transfer so the new owner of the vehicle must tax the car before they drive the car. The problem highlighted by the case reported above is DVLA's systems seem to have a glitch which has resulted in some drivers being wrongly clamped.

How does the problem happen?
The person selling the car must inform the DVLA of the change of ownership "as soon as possible" following the sale and then the DVLA's computerised system is supposed to match the car with the new road tax purchased by the new owner and automatically arrange for a refund of the unexpired complete months of the old VED to the seller. It seems the problem arises if a seller is tardy in notifying DVLA of the change of owner or new registered keeper.

In the case reported above the car was purchased by the retired solicitor on 15th September from a Honda dealer and they taxed the car for him as the sale was completed and obtained a printout dated 15th September from the GOV.UK website giving the VED application reference number and an acknowledgment of the VED payment. But following the clamping the solicitor telephoned DVLA only to be told the DVLA computer showed the car was not taxed - the road tax had ended on 2nd September! The solicitor decided to pay the VED cost again and once the clamping contractor's pound reopened on 27th December he called them to get his car released. He had to pay them £100 to do so!

Frustrated by the experience, the solicitor called the Sunday Times who contacted DVLA to investigate the case and DVLA admitted it had been at fault. It said that although the new owner had taxed the car on 15th September, the DVLA had not received the notification confirming the sale and change of registered keeper until November at which point its computer automatically cancelled the road tax the solicitor had purchased immediately after his purchase of the car on 15th. The tax for the unexpired 9 months of that VED should have been automatically refunded to the solicitor but he did not receive it - that of course would have provided an alert there was something wrong. The Sunday Times report says DVLA has "contacted the customer directly to apologise" and added that "these cases are rare among the 47m transactions we process each year. Our advice is when you are selling a vehicle you need to tell us promptly". DVLA refunded the £100 clamping release charge but there seems to have been no mention of any payment for the serious inconvenience or stress suffered by the solicitor caused by the faulty records at DVLA.

Assessment of this case
Both seller and buyer have an interest in ensuring DVLA is notified promptly of the change of ownership and of the new registered keeper and in this case it appears DVLA "did not receive the notification until November" some 6 to 8 weeks after the sale. The article notes the dealer says "it always informs the DVLA of changes of ownership in good time" so that leaves two possibilities: either the notice was sent off soon after the sale but was delayed in the postal system or it was sent to DVLA 5 to 7 weeks after the sale. Most people would feel the notice should be sent within 7 days of the sale so a delay of 5 weeks could not be regarded as either prompt notice or even "in good time".

Whilst this seems a rare case, as we have not heard of this particular problem before, we presume that the DVLA must allow some time after the purchase of a VED before a notification of a change of keeper triggers a cancellation and refund, but not as long as occurred in this case. The new form of V5C does require in section 6 (new keeper details) not only the name and address of the buyer but also the date of sale or transfer so on processing the notification DVLA should have recorded that key date on their system. Logically the DVLA systems should compare the date of sale or transfer with the date the current VED was taken out and is consequently the current VED for the new keeper but also recognise if another sale of the vehicle has occurred when an automatic cancellation is necessary. Clearly there is scope for muddle here and the risk of that muddle resulting in an incorrect cancellation of a VED is greater if the notification of a change of keeper is not prompt but received several weeks or more after the sale of the vehicle.

The DVLA is depicted as the villain of the story because the VED was cancelled but no refund was made, and indeed they are to blame for that, but of course the initial problem was caused by what appears to have been either the seller (dealer) not sending off the V5C notification to DVLA promptly, or delays in the mailing system, or Royal Mail did deliver in to Swansea but then later DVLA found it down the back of the filing cabinet! Finally it was actioned but it was treated as though it was a current change of keeper, not a late notification, so under the new system the VED was cancelled automatically, and a refund should have been made. If it was made, it did not go to the new owner. Therefore, unbeknown to the new owner, the car now was untaxed and showed up as such on an ANPR camera with disastrous results.

But whilst the inconvenience the buyer suffered from the clamping was a painful experience, we are surprised the buyer did not chase up DVLA to find out why he had not received a new V5C showing him as the new registered keeper. By Christmas Eve that was 14 or 15 weeks after his buying the car which should have provided an alert although, not unreasonably, the buyer probably felt everything had been done to comply with DVLA requirements: the dealer should have sent in the notification of a change of keeper to DVLA soon after the sale of the car and a new VED had been purchased in the showroom before the buyer drove away. That would be compliance on both counts.

What lessons can we take from this sad story?
So our recommendation for anyone buying a car is:
> Green slip - ensure that the seller has detached the V5C/2 (the "green slip") from the V5C and handed it to you as the buyer. The buyer will need to use that green slip to apply for a new road tax/VED.
> SAE envelope - take an C5 size envelope addressed to DVLA Swansea bearing a First Class stamp with you when you intend buying a car.
> New registered keeper - ensure the seller enters the buyer's name and address as the new registered keeper in section 9 (V5C/3) on the V5C and both buyer and seller have signed the declarations in section 8 of the V5C.
> Change of ownership notice to DVLA - ensure the seller (having removed the green slip) places the updated V5C in the envelope addressed to DVLA and sends it in the postal system as the formal notice of change of ownership/new registered keeper.
Ideally you should see that it has been posted as there will otherwise remain a risk the buyer might leave the envelope on one side and forget to post it with a consequent delay in this essential notice reaching DVLA.
> Check that the new V5C is received from DVLA showing the buyer's name and address as the registered keeper.