At the time of its inception VIC was aimed at deterring the crime of replacing the identity of a stolen car with that of a cheaply bought total loss (write off) car of the same type. This is commonly known as ‘ringing’. Insurance companies operate within a Code of Practice for categorising write-offs. The VIC scheme applied to all written off cars in salvage categories A, B or C. Experience has shown that this has placed a burden on a large number of owners who have opted to retain the salvage (i.e. the car) because relatively minor damage can result in repairs costing more than the value of the vehicle. For many motorists, it has become an unnecessary procedure, particularly when a vehicle has remained in the hands of the same keeper for several years and the market value is low.
2. WHY HAS THE SCHEME NOT BEEN SUCCESSFUL?
Since the start of the scheme in April 2003 less than 40 so-called ‘ringers’ have been detected from around 916,000 checks completed over the 11 years to 2013. Data provided from the British Crime Survey has demonstrated that vehicle theft continues to fall and has been doing so since the 1990’s, prior to the VIC scheme being introduced. The deterrent effect of the VIC scheme is difficult to quantify due to the way the police record vehicle crime related offences. Additionally vehicle technology and the processes adopted by police forces to track down organised vehicle crime are far better than they were at the inception of the VIC scheme. About 75% of the checks were undertaken on cars which were 7 years or older, written-off because the cost of even small repairs were 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.
3. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF VIC WHEN IT STARTED?
The VIC scheme was introduced in April 2003 with the purpose of deterring the crime of vehicle ringing. Typically this involved the theft of a car 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; it identity (Vehicle Identity Number (VIN) and Vehicle Registration Mark (VRM)) is then transferred to a higher value stolen car which, now apparently genuine, can be sold at market price. This is known as vehicle ‘ringing’. The check was designed to prevent vehicle ‘ringing’ by confirming that the car presented for check is legitimate.
4. HOW DID THE CHECK REDUCE CRIME?
When a car is written off or declared scrapped due to substantial damage to bodywork the V5C registration certificate is surrendered to the insurance company. If the car is repaired with the intention of putting it back on the road, DVLA will not issue a new V5C logbook until the car passes a VIC. If the identity of the car is in doubt it will fail the check. This meant that DVLA will not issue a new V5C logbook or vehicle tax disc for the vehicle.
5. HOW CAN I TELL IF A VIC IS REQUIRED?
A VIC is required for all cars notified to the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as written off (category A, B or C) and returning to the road. Since 7th April 2003 DVLA have kept a record of all cars that require a VIC check. . You can contact the DVLA for advice on whether the car requires a VIC test (you can also check on-line)
6. HOW ARE VEHICLE IDENTITY CHECKS MADE AND WHO DOES THEM?
VICs are undertaken by the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in Great Britain and by The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland on behalf of the DfT. The check will compare the car presented against information held by DVLA such as the chassis number, make, model, and colour and engine number. Other components may also be checked to confirm the age and identity of the car. The inspection will also compare the record of previous accident damage with evidence of the repair.
7. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO REPLACE VIC WITH?
The vehicle crime element is now largely dealt with by modern vehicle technology that has improved vehicle security over the 10 years since the inception of the VIC scheme. This is demonstrated by the very low number of vehicles that have been discovered to be rung. Various options to modify the scheme were explored but no viable filters could be put in place without over complicating matters and imposing greater burdens on some customers. The Department has committed to investigating further with the Home Office and industry what, if anything, will replace VIC.
8. IS THERE ANY OTHER WORK YOU ARE DOING CONNECTED WITH WRITTEN-OFF VEHICLES?
We have contacted a number of stakeholders to consider a number of issues further with them before the October 2015 abolition of VIC. These issues include:
- considering a statutory basis for the insurance industry’s code of practice about written-off vehicles;
- information for purchasers/ consumers related to previously written-off vehicles;
- vehicle registration documentation; and
- considering measures related to very severely damaged vehicles (including category Bs)
9. WHERE DOES THE VIC SCHEME APPLY?
It is currently in operation across the United Kingdom, with checks done in Great Britain by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and Northern Ireland by the Driver and Vehicle Agency. We want to ensure a Northern Ireland perspective is included in the issues for further consideration
10. HOW WILL WE PREVENT VEHICLE RINGING IN THE FUTURE?
Since 2003 it has not been demonstrated that the scheme has not done what it set out to do. The Department will work closely with its stakeholders to establish if anything is required in the future.
11. WHAT HAPPENS TO CARS THAT ALREADY HAVE A VIC MARKER?
The Department will be considering further with DVLA and industry how VIC markers will be treated during the period up to abolition. The current position is that cars with a VIC marker will continue to require a VIC to remove the marker until October 2015.
12. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO OUTSTANDING VIC FAILURES WHEN VIC IS ABOLISHED?
Any vehicles that have a VIC inspection and fail it before the abolition will be treated as they are now. A registration certificate will not be issued until it can be demonstrated that the car is not a rung vehicle. The process already in place will continue until the scheme is abolished. The Department will be considering this further with stakeholders during the period up to abolition.
13. WILL VIC MARKERS STOP BEING ADDED PRIOR TO ABOLITION?
The Department will be considering this with stakeholders during the period up to abolition.
14. HOW SOON BEFORE VIC CEASES WILL DVSA STOP TAKING APPLICATIONS?
The Department will be considering this with DVSA and industry during the period up to abolition.
15. HOW WILL I KNOW THAT MY WRITTEN-OFF VEHICLE IS ROADWORTHY FOLLOWING REPAIRS WHEN VIC IS ABOLISHED?
It was perceived that the VIC scheme was to do with roadworthiness. The scheme was never intended, or ever has been, used as a means to determine roadworthiness. During the Department’s consultation concerns were expressed that the roadworthiness and crashworthiness of rebuilt written-off vehicles should be subject to checking. The Department is committed to investigating this further with industry.
16. WILL ABOLISHING VIC MAKE IT EASIER TO GET WRITTEN-OFF VEHICLES BACK ON THE ROAD?
Yes, this will avoid waiting for an appointment for the VIC inspection to be undertaken, which can have a lead time of up to 6 weeks. However, the Department will be considering further the processes for ensuring that the car has been repaired and is roadworthy prior to the issuing of the V5C.