This is response of the ABD to the government consultation on the release of vehicle keeper data by the DVLA.
1 March 2006
Department for Transport
105 Victoria Street
Consultation on Release of Vehicle Keeper Data from the UK Vehicle Registers
Thank you for inviting the Association of British Drivers (ABD) to respond to the above consultation. The ABD is very concerned at recent news reports about the ease with which vehicle keeper data can be obtained by individuals and organisations, without sufficient checks on those requesting the data or how it is used. We welcome, therefore, the opportunity to contribute to a process that we hope will lead to more secure control of the information held by the DVLA on vehicle keepers.
The response below is set out in accordance with the three sections contained in the consultation document.
Granting access to the register
The ABD does not consider that it would be reasonable to prescribe by regulation who should have access to the data and the reasons for which it can be released, since this would introduce unnecessary inflexibility. The 'reasonable cause' provision should remain, therefore, but with more detailed guidance on the circumstances that are likely to meet this test, together with a restriction on those organisations to which data will be released.
Managing access to the register
While the ABD supports the continuation of approved conditional access, we take the view that data should be released only to regulated bodies. Consequently, non-regulated bodies and individuals would not be able to apply directly to the DVLA for the release of data. Such organisations or individuals would have to go through an appropriate regulated body, which would need to be satisfied that the grounds for making the application were genuine.
Furthermore, the ABD would like the DVLA to be required to publish on its website a list of those organisations requesting keeper details, together with the volume of those requests, and the reasons for them, on a monthly or annual basis. This would promote openness and would discourage those who might not wish their activities to be known.
Auditing access to the register
This is probably the area in which the greatest improvements need to be made. Of the five options put forward in the consultation document for improving awareness of the vehicle keeper, the ABD supports the first three (a robust process for keepers to raise concerns with the DVLA, with details of this process provided with registration certificates and excise licence/SORN renewals), and the fifth option (writing to each vehicle keeper when their data is released). While the latter would lead to an increase in the current fee for the release of data, it would be only marginally greater than if a 5 per cent sample of keepers were written to, and it would ensure that those requesting the data would know with certainty that the keeper would be made aware.
The ABD supports the introduction of a probationary period for those seeking approved conditional access. We would prefer a greater period than the suggested first 20 requests - 50 would be better.
Concerning penalties for non-compliance, if access was restricted to regulated bodies as suggested, the DVLA would need the power to insist that the regulatory body took robust action against a member organisation that failed to meet its obligations, including expulsion in the case of repeat offenders.
The ABD supports the suggestions in the consultation document that 5 per cent of requests should be checked from organisations with approved conditional access, and that 5 per cent of vehicle keepers should be approached following data release, to verify compliance.
If all the above suggestions were implemented, the ABD believes they would go a long way to restoring drivers' confidence in the DVLA's custody of the information it holds on them.