Motoring and Road traffic law update 13-10-2014

A 93 year old tradition done away with: Tax discs to be made available online for motorists- but will it work?

Motoring groups and motorists have complained that scrapping a century of existing motoring law by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing agency (DVLA) to introduce online tax discs has caused major disruption for motorists, it is reported in the Daily Telegraph.

The system of displaying vehicle excise duty (VED) disc on the vehicle owner’s screen has now been done away with. The VED can now be renewed either online or at Post Office branches. The Government claims that making the system electronic will allow the DVLA to save around £7 million a year.

The inevitable heavy rush of online applicants to obtain the online tax discs caused the site to crash site as it appeared that the online agency was not prepared to deal with the rush it experienced on the very first day.

The online message being received by the motorists on behalf of the DVLA was: “We are currently experiencing high volumes of traffic to our online vehicle tax service please keep trying. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Frustrated people trying to access the website vented out their angst through social media and expressed their frustration on Twitter.

The decision of the DVLA to make the system apparently more transparent and accessible through the internet led to major chaos as, it is reported, that as many as 6,000 applicants tried to access their web-site forcing the registration agency to shut down that very night. The law stipulates a £1000 fine for motorists caught driving without their tax discs.

Confusion has arisen on how this new system works as the old system has been in place for more than 9 decades now. Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “We’ve had a number of our members coming on to us say that the DVLA car-tax site has crashed. It’s a bit ironic in this digital age that the site goes down on the first day of the electronic system coming into being. I think that not only a lot of people have tried to get on to the site to renew their car tax but also a number have tried to access the site to find out how the changes to the car tax system affect them.”

CEO of Scivisum, Deri Jones, a website performance monitoring company, said that “It’s true to say that nobody could have predicted the volume of traffic on the website, there’s always an element of guesswork involved with something new like this. But with today’s elastic cloud technology there’s really no excuse. With a well-designed site it’s possible to scale up a website as and when you need it, even for short periods of time.”

Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, noted that: “Despite months of warning, Ministers have failed to prepare properly for today’s digital switch. Websites and phone lines have been overwhelmed, leaving motorists unable to renew their car tax. Ministers need to get a grip and ensure these new online services work for the public.”

The system has now been resumed and it has come back online. The DVLA now claims that a total of 270,000 motorists successfully used its online service the very first day which is almost 30,000 persons more than on the same day the preceding year.

The website auto trader survey recently revealed that:-

  • Almost 50% of the drivers were unsure about the actual process behind the switch and electronic discs.

  • About 39% of the motorists population were oblivious of the fact that it would no longer be possible to transfer road tax between the ex-owner and the new buyer of a vehicle,

  • 17% were unsure of where should the road tax now be paid.

  • And 26% of the drivers took the view that this change is not a good step for consumers.

Certain concerns being raised:

AA and the RAC the major motoring groups have raised concerns over the abolition of paper discs. Recently, an Auto Trader survey revealed that there is a lack of awareness of the disc’s abolition amongst motorists, despite being a major change in almost a century of road traffic law.

The new system disallows new vehicle owners from taking advantage of the remaining months and days remaining on their existing car’s VED and will need to renew the tax according to the new norms. This is being criticised by the AA as it feels that the Government may now be to derive “double money” from drivers. The RAC has expressed fears that doing away with the paper disc system may increase the number of motorists who drive without insurance which could in turn lead to a £167 loss to the exchequer.

The DVLA has appeared to have rejected the claims and fears being raised by the motorist groups and countered them by stating that there is “no basis” to the RAC figures and reacted by stressing that it is “nonsense” to suggest that getting rid of the paper tax disc would lead to an increase in vehicle tax evasion. It has further clarified that people who sell their vehicle from now on will be entitled to claim a refund from the DVLA for the unused months of road tax. The automatic number plate recognition cameras or the police checking VED data information will allow them to spot motorists who have not paid the vehicle tax.

A motoring barrister view: Will this also lead to the already overworked and under resourced magistrates court being clogged up with potentially hundred more minor motoring offences of driving without a valid vehicle excise licence? Only time will tell…

Source: DVLA website crashes on first day of law change

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