A BBC investigation late last year found that some DVLA registered companies could be selling license plates to unsuspecting drivers without conducting the necessary checks. In some cases this has led to some drivers finding themselves on the wrong side of the law when their number plate is associated with a crime. One such company in Birmingham was reported to have made the number plates in less than 10 minutes without log book checks.

When getting a number plate (or show plates), a vehicle user should be able to produce documentation that proves their name and address as well as their right to use a registration number. The report by the BBC late last year has proven that this requirement is particular is being overlooked. More and more number ate registration companies in an effort to make as many number plates as possible are failing in their law mandated role of requiring these checks before selling number plates.

The failure to make these checks has in some instances led to companies producing number plates with number and letter combinations that buyers have no right to use. In this way, it can be very easy for one driver to have a vehicle that bears the identity of someone else’s car. You can imagine the kind of problems this can cause especially when one of these drivers is involved in criminal activity. The other driver who may have acquired the same number plate legitimately maybe on the hook for a crime they didn’t commit.

The Police Don’t Know How Many Fake Plates Are Out There

What is even more disheartening is that in their reporting, the BBC said that the DVLA and the police had no idea how many fake number plates could be on the road. But the police admit that it is a problem that has been growing over time. In fact, the DVLA terms it a significant problem that could soon get out of hand.

But perhaps the ones who suffer most from this widespread cloning of number plates are the motorists whose number plates are cloned. One such driver, Adam Shirley from Surrey says he has already received more than 18 letters demanding he pay a total of £1000 in fines after another car with the same license plate as his got parking tickets in an area of the country he has never visited. Most of these tickets came from Wadsworth in London, 30 miles away from where Adam lives. He says he is now fearful “someone will commit a bigger crime using a car with my license plate on it.”

A Lack of Knowledge Could be the Root Cause

While there is no excusing the unscrupulous licenses plate companies that fail to carry out their legal mandate when selling these number plates, we must also point out that the UK public also seems misinformed about number plates. Most people in the UK can’t tell a fake number plate from a real one and in a study conducted by the FOI; more than 50% think that you can add a football crest to a legal number plate.

This study and others like it point out the vulnerability that some of these number plate companies exploit. If you don’t know the difference between a fake and real number plate, you are more susceptible to purchase any number plates that an “expert” tells you are legal. The following are some of the rules when buying a number plate;

  • You can only get a number plate from a registered supplier
  • The supplier should ask to see your original documents, proving your name and email address
  • The dealer must also ask to see the original documents showing you are allowed to use the registration number you want to buy.

In case you don’t know which documents these are, the information can be found on the government website.

In their investigation, the BBC found two Birmingham retailers who both failed to ask for a log book, even though the DVLA requires every registered retailer to do so. An undercover BBC reporter found it very easy to purchase a number plate, buying one in just 10 minutes with no documentation provided. An employee at this particular store claimed that the retailer had software with DVLA that provided your name and other documentation upon payment. The BBC found there was no such DVLA system.

The DVLA recommends you contact the police if you think your number plate has been stolen and avoid buying number plates from dealers who promise you a plate in 10 minutes without the necessary checks.