My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I am today announcing 14 major new measures to ensure that the release of data from the UK vehicle registers is undertaken in a way that:
protects vehicle keepers from misuse of their information;
ensures that those who have reasonable cause can get the data they need;
balances the right to privacy of individuals whose data are held on the register with the need of others to gain proper redress;
is cost-effective, in that the costs to all are proportionate to the benefits that the scheme delivers; and
is right in principle and works in practice.
This follows the review that I announced in December last year and the public consultation launched in February this year. I will give a full update on progress in delivering these new measures in the autumn. I will continue to scrutinise closely the way in which the scheme operates and how it is used. Should further action be merited, I will ensure that it is taken quickly.
The new measures are as follows.
New requirements for evidence of “reasonable cause”
New detailed guidance on what is likely to constitute “reasonable cause”.
Clarity that behaviour in using data will be considered in judging whether a particular applicant's assertions as to the “reasonable cause” for his application are to be believed, and in deciding whether approved conditional access is granted or maintained.
For all applications where “reasonable cause” relates to a vehicle left on land without permission or in breach of terms and conditions, evidence is required that the applicant is the landowner or has the permission of the landowner to pursue the vehicle keeper.
For all applications where “reasonable cause” relates to the pursuit of a penalty charge, evidence is required that a penalty scheme was indeed in place on that piece of land (eg that there was signage).
New requirements for “approved conditional access”
Those bodies and companies seeking approved conditional access that do not have an appropriate regulatory body are required to be current members of an “accredited” trade association. Part of the process for “accrediting” trade associations will include ensuring that there is a clear and enforced code of conduct (for example, relating to conduct, parking charge signage, charge levels, appeals procedure, approval of ticket wording, and appropriate pursuit of penalties, eg approach by letter only and county court action only to permit a house call).
Organisations that do not comply with the terms of the accredited trade association will be expelled and without valid membership of another accredited trade association will lose their approved conditional access. Trade associations that do not police the conditions of membership adequately will lose their accreditation.
All those seeking approved conditional access will be required to serve a “probationary” period of six months or, if longer, for the period of time that it takes to make 20 requests—during which all requests should be made on a case-by-case basis.
New measures to ensure awareness of the vehicle keeper
That all those who receive data, as evidence of their “reasonable behaviour” and as a condition of “approved conditional access”, include in any correspondence with the keeper a leaflet or statement advising them of:
the “reasonable cause” which formed the basis of the request;
the “complaints” procedure by which a data subject can notify both DVLA and the Information Commissioner if they believe that their data have been used inappropriately; and
the appeals procedure (for the regulatory body) if they feel that, for example, a parking charge notice has been issued incorrectly.
And that this information is also placed on the DVLA website.
That DVLA maintains on its website a list of organisations and companies that have requested data and the reasons for their request.
That a reference to the location on the DVLA website of guidance and advice and all other information relating to the release of vehicle keeper data is included on all DVLA documentation sent to the vehicle keeper, including the annual VED reminder.
New auditing procedures and action to combat misuse or complaints
A rolling three-year programme of audit check, including targeted checks on those where concerns have been raised.
A clear set of procedures where such concerns are raised:
an audit is triggered by complaints of substance representing a disproportionate level of granted requests or any complaint of a serious nature;
if, following implementation of the audit recommendations, a disproportionate level of complaints of substance is received, an organisation with approved conditional access will be required to submit requests on a case-by-case basis; if it is already subject to request on a case-by-case basis, it will be subject to additional scrutiny of each request that it makes; and
if a disproportionate level of further complaints of substance is received and a company is found to be consistently using data inappropriately or a serious complaint of abuse of the system by an applicant is substantiated, then there is a distinct possibility that we will not believe the applicant to have reasonable cause on a future request and, if so, data release would then be declined in that case.
New complaints procedures
A clear procedure by which data subjects can notify DVLA if they feel that their data have been used inappropriately; steps must be taken to draw this to the attention of vehicle keepers by including information in paperwork sent to them and on the DVLA website. This will include information of how they can notify the Information Commissioner of the misuse of their data.
Complaints received will form part of the evaluation of whether an applicant's assertion of “reasonable cause” is valid.