What can be done about logbooks being offered for sale?

Posted on March 15th, 2018 by Rob Marshall

What can be done about logbooks being offered for sale?

Much has been written about concerns that the classic car market is about to experience a crash. The commentators may have a point. In the past few years, old car values have rocketed but, while there have been signs to investors that the bubble is deflating slightly, it appears not to have burst, as yet. Even fairly ordinary cars from the 1970s – 1990s are feeling the rising value effect and many classic car auctions have seen lots attracting bids way over their initial estimates.

Yet, the temptation of a fast-buck also tempts the criminal fraternity, who may decide to swap a car’s identity with that of another one to bolster its value – an illegal act, known as ‘ringing’, which can be very easy to do with an older vehicle and difficult for even an expert to detect. Some owners have even done this, to make a car look older than it, therefore defrauding HM’s Treasury on purpose, by avoiding paying road tax.

Concerns have been raised by the classic car community especially over old car logbooks being sold openly (usually online), accompanying removable chassis plates from a long-scrapped vehicle. While many adverts list the V5C as ‘memorabilia’, other onlookers view them as ‘DIY ringing kits’ and an online petition calls for official action to be taken.

What has been done?

The DVLA confirmed to GEM that, while there are no specific laws surrounding the selling of V5C logbooks, the document should be surrendered upon disposal (sale, export, destruction et al) of a vehicle so that an accurate database can be held. The Authority also confirmed that,

“The selling of V5Cs could lead potentially to the cloning of vehicles and other criminal activity”.

When pressed for more details about any illegality involving selling a V5, we were told that,

“The Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 specify that the registration document should be returned when details of the vehicle and/or keeper change. This allows the register to be updated with the revised information and a new document issued, therefore, it is an offence if the registered keeper fails to notify DVLA of these changes mentioned above.”

The DVLA also confirmed that it takes any suggestion of possible fraud very seriously. Should it become aware of suspicious activity, it told GEM that steps would be taken to investigate and involve the relevant law enforcement bodies, where necessary.

Yet, when we requested evidence of past action that had resulted in either enforcement, or a prosecution, the DVLA spokesman would not be specific but elucidated,

“As part of our ongoing work to counteract fraud, we investigate any activity that may give rise to car cloning. We work extensively with the police to ensure that robust measures are in place to detect and prevent crime and, whilst for security reasons we will not provide specific details of these measures, criminals and the public can be assured that those involved in vehicle crime will be brought to justice.”

 As eBay UK has been cited as a platform for logbooks being offered for sale, we asked the online marketplace if it had been contacted by the DVLA beforehand and withdrew any auctions as a result, plus, what action is it taking in relation to the sale of V5Cs that could lead to the cloning of vehicles and other criminal activity.

A eBay UK told GEM that the sale of vehicle logbooks listed without out a vehicle is prohibited under its Government Documents Policy and that it has removed listings in the past. Specifically, eBay UK’s spokesperson added, 

‘“We work with the police and regulators to ensure that all of our listings comply with the law. We will also remove items that could imply or encourage illegal activity.”

 What can you do?

The DVLA advises that, should you find any V5Cs being offered for sale on eBay, or any other similar websites, e-mail cio.vehicles@dvla.gsi.gov.uk with the item/auction number, so that it can look into the issue and take further appropriate action, if necessary. You can also contact the online website.

GEM is be interested to hear of any experiences you have had, in relation to cloned vehicles, or action taken in regards to this worrying issue.