Seeking Details of Previous Owners of your Car from DVLA

Mention was made in the editorial of the October 2017 Issue concerning the problems I encountered in trying to get DVLA to agree to releasing details of previous owners of my PB. I had applied on Form V888 Request by an individual for information about a vehicle enclosing the £5 fee, only to receive a refusal on the grounds that the reason I gave for wanting the information (to have a historical record of the ownership of my 80+ year old car from new) did not meet the “reasonable cause” criteria that allows DVLA to release the information.

“Reasonable cause” criteria include tracing the registered keeper of an abandoned vehicle, or one parked on private land, or details of ownership for court proceedings, or road traffic accidents.

After a Google search, I came up with a DVLA posting under the heading Giving people information from our vehicle record which stated that it was indeed possible to obtain the required information on previous owners and there was no reference to “reasonable cause”.

Armed with this information, I wrote again to DVLA and asked for the information to which I was entitled and a book of first class stamps (value £7.80) in recompense for the time and trouble they had caused me. I received a reply from DVLA stating that there had been a change in policy following a recent data protection review and my request did not meet “reasonable cause” criteria.

I then wrote to my MP (by then, the DVLA posting, previously mentioned, had been removed). I said that I would pay a reasonable fee if the DVLA would agree to write to former owners on my behalf. I quipped that they would not need to write to the first owner because, even if he acquired the car from new at the tender age of 20, he would now be 101!

Back came the reply, stating that The DVLA’s review concluded that the release of personal information for vehicle research purposes did not meet the necessary reasonable cause criteria. In these circumstances there is no lawful provision that would allow the Agency to override the rights of privacy of the vehicle’s previous keeper. This change ensures that the DVLA is fully compliant with the current Data Protection Act and the new General Data Protection Regulation that comes into effect in May 2018.

In response to my offer to pay a reasonable fee, the response was The Agency would need to process their personal data to achieve this outcome and again we would struggle to demonstrate any necessity for doing so. On a more mundane level, DVLA would simply not be able to commit resources to this task for everyone in Mr James’ position, bearing in mind the Agency’s other functions.

My reaction to the ‘reasonable fee’ response is that the left hand of the DVLA appears not to know what the right hand is doing. I am aware that DVLA has recently agreed to forward a letter to a previous keeper of a Triple-M car for historical purposes, so it was apparently OK to override the rights of the previous keeper in this instance? I shall ask the respondent to my MP how he squares this particular circle.

I am also aware of some correspondence which is being exchanged with DVLA by an 18/80 owning friend. Some extracts from his latest letter follow:

As you state, just cause is not defined in Law, but enshrined in the DVLA’s own interpretation of ‘reasonable cause’.

I would interpret ‘reasonable cause’ to include present vehicle owners who have a right to ascertain the historical record of an asset they own, namely a motor vehicle.

With reference to disclosure under the 1998 Data Protection Act, you have stated that it would be unlawful for you to disclose details of previous owners. I cannot understand how the DVLA can now claim that it is barred from disclosure, as the 1998 Act has not materially altered and you have been providing this ‘disclosure service’ to registered keepers for many years in return for a fee and until quite recently. If the law is as you claim, then the DVLA has been acting unlawfully and each and every previous disclosure will be evidence of this.

Watch this space!

3 thoughts on “Seeking Details of Previous Owners of your Car from DVLA

  1. RayWhite says:

    Hello John.

    I may just be able to see how the DVLA might not want to divulge personal details of previous owners if it clashes with the Data Protection Act but for the life of me I can’t see why they can’t forward your letters to them?

    This is just being down right difficult, isn’t it?


  2. Jeff Leah says:

    Hello John

    I have used the V888 procedure many times in the past paying the £5 fee when it was introduced and prior to that when the service was provided free of charge. I also followed the DVLA advice to pass on the information on with the vehicle on change of ownership, which to my reading implies the vehicle history information rightly should belong with the vehicle.

    I can understand how the changes to be enacted in May 2018 would cause DVLA to review their disclosure policy but to implement changes prior to the new statute coming into force seems unfair. Legislative changes are usually preceded by warning and sometimes a period of grace after the implementation date – it’s the British way of fair play. I appreciate the DVLA action is not a legislative change but surely it would make sense to implement any change required to coincide with the legislation that demands it – if indeed it does. Making any changes directed by legislation prematurely means applicants for information being treated inconsistently. The policy shift also begs the question in these days of freedom of information of how many complaints were received that historical keeper data was supplied inappropriately to suggest wanting to establish and maintain a Historic vehicle’s history in not “reasonable cause”

  3. Brad Purvis says:

    Sadly, it is the same in the USA. In some cases, manufacturers (dealers) can access complete service records of a vehicle, but without ownership history. This, of course, only applies to cars from the mid-eighties when computerized records became more commonplace. It’s the same with independent car history repositories such as CARFAX and AutoCheck, whose records are sadly rife with errors and inconsistencies. As for an automobile like our beloved T-Series, if records didint come with the car then the ability to trace its history is all but non-existent. Individual state laws may vary, but in most cases the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), with not release information about previous owners. Complicating matters, is that in the USA automobile registration is done by state and a registration number is usually assigned to the owner, not the car, so an individual plate may be on a Chevrolet pickup truck one day and a Mercedes GLK the next.

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