Paperless Road Tax System Causes Increase in Car Clamping
According to the AA, the DVLA clamped more than 25,000 cars in the first quarter of 2015.
This represents a huge 60%, rise compared to the number of cars clamped in the same period of 2014. This equates to around 3,000 extra clampings each month as a result of the new paperless road tax system. It seems that thousands of motorists are being caught out by the absence of a paper tax disc on their car to tell them if their car is taxed and when that tax runs out. The DVLA is showing little mercy, having retained a firm of clampers to target untaxed cars.
The AA has been critical of the DVLA for not adequately informing the nation's motorists about the change to a paperless system and the implications this could have. According to the president of the AA, Edmund King, clampers employed by the DVLA are now catching an additional 3,000 untaxed cars every month. He accepts that those who are deliberately dodging the tax should be made to pay up but argues that it is harsh to punish those who are not aware that the tax disc displayed on a car is automatically cancelled when the car changes ownership.
According to the DVLA's own figures, 26,173 cars were clamped in the year to the end of March, which works out at an average of 8,724 clampings in a month. In the same period in 2014, the figure was 5,381 a month.
Under DVLA rules, motorists whose cars are clamped have to pay a release fee of £100, but they only have 24 hours to do this. If they fail to do so, the car will be towed and the release fee will be doubled to £200. There is also a daily storage fee of and additional £21 per day on top. If the owner doesn't stump up and reclaim their vehicle within a week, the DVLA has the right to get rid of the car, either by scrapping or selling it. On top of these payments, the motorists must also pay their road tax in full or leave a surety payment of £160 to have the car released. One couple were fined hundreds of pounds after they simply swapped the ownership details of their cars to each other's name. They did this to remain properly insured after a change in circumstances meant that it was more convenient for them to swap cars. Unfortunately, they did this before going on holiday and on their return found that their car had been towed and they had a bill of more than £800 to pay to get it back.
One company employed by the DVLA now has 44 tow trucks and a further 52 vans patrolling the streets of the UK and clamping untaxed vehicles. Precise financial details of that contract have not been made public, but it is known to be worth millions of pounds every year.
The AA says that it has been flooded with complaints about the new system. Mr King has argued that the old system of the paper tax disc had been in place for almost a century and changing to a paperless system represented a huge change. He said that such a change should have been accompanied by a huge informational campaign to inform the public of the new change and how it would affect them. The fine details of the new system, such as the cancelling of tax when ownership of the car changes, seem not to have been communicated properly and appear to have caught out a large number of otherwise law-abiding motorists. Mr King said that the DVLA should therefore be more cautious and flexible in enforcing the new rules until they have had time to bed in.
The DVLA has defended the changes to the road tax system and has claimed that the new system was necessary to protect people from being sold cars that were untaxed. They also argued that the changes had been widely publicised and that every owner will receive a letter reminding them of the rules before their tax expires and when they purchase a used car.