18th June 2018

MEPs vote to wind back clocking

Car clocking – tampering with a vehicle’s odometer to make its mileage appear lower – has long been a problem in automotive sales, and one which appears to be getting worse. Now Members of the European Parliament have voted that steps should be taken to tackle the issue.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
There has been a 25% surge in car clocking in the UK over the past three years

Among the proposed legislation is a call for national mileage registers to be made available across borders so prospective buyers can verify a vehicle’s mileage readings no matter where it was previously registered. MEPs have also proposed that car manufacturers should take greater measures to ensure that odometers are tamper-proof.

The legislative proposals will now go to the European Commission, which will decide whether to table the motion.

A 2017 survey by data specialist Cap hpi found that there has been a 25% surge in car clocking in the UK over the past three years, during which time the amount of vehicle odometers being tampered with has risen to one in 16 from the previous rate of one in 20. It is estimated that the practice costs the UK consumer £800m a year – it also has real safety implications.

Some countries – including Belgium and the Netherlands – have cracked down on car clocking, taking regular readings of vehicle odometers and virtually eradicating the problem. In the UK, however, the government has been criticised for its lukewarm approach to the issue, and organisations such as the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) have accused it of ignoring the problem.

In 2016 business minister Anna Soubry promised to close the legal loophole which means that while knowingly selling a car in the UK with a clocked odometer is fraud, tampering with an odometer is not illegal. Progress on the issue has, however, been slow.

The CTSI has been among those calling for action to be taken on the issue. In October CEO Leon Livermore wrote to the Department for Transport that  “CTSI would seek to restrict the legitimate changing of a vehicle’s mileage to the manufacturer alone. We would suggest that anyone other than the manufacturer who changes the mileage should be committing a specific legal offence.

“Vehicle manufacturers should also be encouraged to build in anti-tamper mechanisms or backup data (cloud databases) to actively prevent third-party tampering.”

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