Pay out for woman whose car was incorrectly destroyed by DVLA

A teacher whose car was wrongly clamped and destroyed by the DVLA has been successful in her battle to get the cost of the vehicle back, following an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The DVLA wrongly clamped the woman's car, which was parked outside her home on a private road, even though she had a Statutory Off Road Notification on the car.

The woman was waiting until after Christmas to get her car repaired, once she had enough money to do so.

She complained repeatedly to both the DVLA and the contractor which clamped her car on behalf of the DVLA, but neither organisation listened or put the mistake right by investigating the matter.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said:

Our investigation found that the DVLA's contractors should not have clamped the car and the DVLA failed to resolve the mistake.

'This mistake caused this mother unnecessary distress. The DVLA and its contractors should have investigated the matter when the complainant first got in touch.

'Our investigation found that the DVLA did not make its appeal process clear to the complainant.

'Its complaint handling was poor and its explanations about why it clamped her car were inconsistent.'

Following the investigation the DVLA apologised and paid the woman £1,000 for the value of the car it destroyed, and £300 for the stress, inconvenience and frustration it caused her.

The DVLA gave its staff and contractors clear written information about the correct procedure to follow to resolve a problem.

Our investigation found that because the mistake was not put right by the contractor or the DVLA, the mother felt forced to sign a disclaimer to give up her car as she could not afford the £100 release fee and the car was then destroyed.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigates complaints from individuals about UK government departments, and other public organisations, and the NHS in England. It carries out adjudications independently, without taking sides, providing a final decision on people's complaints. The Ombudsman Service investigates 4,000 cases a year and upholds around 42 per cent.

Notes to editors

  1. The incident happened in Harrow.
  2. The DVLA is an executive agency of the Department for Transport.
  3. An individual has to pay the following fees to have their vehicle released:
    • £100 in the first 24 hours after the vehicle has been clamped; or
    • £200 thereafter; and
    • an additional surety fee of £160 (which is refunded if a valid tax disc is provided within 14 days) or the production of a valid tax disc.
  4. There is no statutory right of appeal or right of review once a car is clamped if someone does not pay a release fee. The law says that a person can dispute the release fee once it has been paid. The person can appeal to the DVLA and then to the magistrates' court within the appropriate timescale if the appeal is refused.
  5. The DVLA have the power to clamp and impound a car if a person:
    • uses or keeps an unlicensed vehicle on a public road regardless of whether there is a SORN in place; or o
    • uses or keeps an unlicensed vehicle on a private road without a SORN in place.
  6. If a person keeps a vehicle that is not being taxed and it is kept off road – that is, not on a public road, they must submit a SORN. This tells the DVLA that you have declared your vehicle off the road. A SORN will remain in force until a vehicle is either taxed, sold, permanently exported or scrapped.
  7. A SORN is a declaration made by the keeper of a vehicle to the DVLA to tell them that their untaxed vehicle will not be kept or used on a public road from the date of the declaration. It is valid for up to 12 months and must be renewed, if still necessary.

Contact: Marina Soteriou

Phone: 0300 061 4996