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Vehicle Identity Check Scheme

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Department has today published a consultation paper on the future of the vehicle identity check (VIC) scheme.

The purpose of the VIC scheme is to deter the crime of vehicle ringing. Typically, this involves the theft of a car often of significant value, which is then given the identity of a similar car (make, model, colour etc) which has been the subject of an insurance write-off. The written-off car is obtained cheaply; its identity (vehicle identification number (VIN) and registration numbers) is then transferred to a higher value stolen car which, now apparently genuine, can be sold at market price.

Since the introduction of the VIC scheme in April 2003, around 717,000 checks have been undertaken and 38 confirmed “ringers” detected, at a cost of around £30 million to the motorist. About 75% of the checks were undertaken on cars which were seven years or older, which were written off because the cost of even small repairs was greater than the very low market value of the vehicle, often meaning that the cost of the check fell on the less well-off members of society.

Although it is felt that the scheme has become, unintentionally, an unnecessary burden to many honest motorists, the police feel that it is still the only deterrent to “ringers”. The scheme also enables vehicle purchasers to be aware that the vehicle they are considering purchasing has previously been a write-off and confirms that the vehicle identity has been checked and therefore provides some protection against purchasing a stolen vehicle.

I intend to consult on whether to retain, re-scope or abolish the scope of the VIC scheme in a move to explore whether fewer vehicles can be checked in the future in order to remove unnecessary burden on law-abiding citizens, without jeopardising prevention of vehicle ringing.

The consultation documents can be found on the Department’s website. An electronic copy has been lodged with the House Library.