A new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP). The system is likely to be in breach of data protection laws and will be of enormous concern to many disabled claimants.
The issue was brought to our attention yesterday by a very unhappy member who emailed us to say:
“My neighbour was able to tell me that I was on the higher rate of disability living allowance.
“She found out that people on the higher rate of disability living allowance and other similar high rate benefits get free road tax.
“The DVLA vehicle check system has been revamped and is now displaying taxation class as DISABLED on every vehicle where the registered taxation class is disabled.
“ It never used to be like this it was just blank .
“Anyone can put your car registration number into the system and do a vehicle check just like my neighbour did and find out you are on benefits and what type as a result of the taxation class DISABLED being on display
“What is the purpose of this system being open to the public to do a vehicle check on any vehicle they want?
“It’s a system of no use to anyone other than malicious people intent on causing problems for people on benefits”
Our member asked us to notify disabled people of the issue and lobby to have the data removed from the DVLA website.
We did our own check on cars in the street outside using the DVLA website and were indeed able to discover that the owner of one vehicle has a disabled tax disc and is therefore in receipt of benefits, as the screenshot below taken from the DVLA website shows.
Exemption from vehicle tax on the grounds of disability is only available for people on Higher Rate DLA Mobility Component, War Pensioners Mobility Supplement, Enhanced Mobility PIP (100% exemption) or Standard Mobility PIP (50% exemption).
The vehicle doesn’t have to belong to the disabled person, but it must be only used for their benefit. The vehicle's registered keeper can be the disabled person or someone else who uses the vehicle only for the disabled person’s needs.
At present the tax disc displayed on a car in these circumstances will show a cost of £0.00. But there are other grounds, apart from disability, for getting exemption from vehicle tax.
In addition, where a disabled person keeps their car on a private drive or in a garage, neighbours will not be able to see the details on the tax disc.
Tax discs to disappear
More importantly, from 1 October of this year you will no longer need to display a tax disc on your vehicle at all.
In addition, when you sell a car from October 2014 the tax cannot be passed onto the new owner. Instead, the previous owner will get a refund and the new owner will have to tax the car themselves.
There seems, therefore, no obvious reason for information about the tax status of a vehicle to be displayed online.
The issue here appears to be one of data protection.
The information that DVLA are making available is not about the vehicle itself. Instead they are publishing personal information about the benefits received by the individual who currently owns the car or for whom the car is solely used.
We spoke to a staff member at the DVLA press office yesterday evening and asked them if they were aware that they were making this information available and if they would suspend the look-up service as a matter of urgency, as it appears to be in breach of data protection laws.
We have yet to receive any response.