Media outlets in the UK are reporting on recent comments by motor trade commentator Glass’s that car clocking is on the rise in the UK -and this time it’s the owners that are doing it! In a blog post by Rupert Pontin, head of Valuations for Glass’s (and a follow-up to their Car Market Trend Editorial for May) it states:
The practice is occurring where drivers exceed the contracted number of miles on fixed mileage leases, such as a PCP, and want to avoid an excess mileage penalty charge on returning the car, which can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
Drivers are increasingly turning to mileage adjustment companies who use specialist equipment to artificially reduce the number of miles showing on the odometer. Because most of the vehicles involved have been supplied new and are less than three years old, there is no MOT certificate and often only one service stamp, so the paper trail doesn’t reveal that the mileage has been altered.”
In their Car Market Trend Editorial for May Glass’s said this:
It would seem that many consumers underestimated or understated their annual mileage at the point of signing their PCP deal and have subsequently realised the impact of the mileage penalty clauses. As a direct result there has been the temptation to realign the mileage to suit the contract and therefore avoid the financial penalties, which in some cases are highly punitive.”
The industry insider says the issue is often coming to light before auction when a discrepancy between the number of miles on the odometer and the result of an engine diagnostic carried out as part of the standard vehicle preparation by an auction house is uncovered. Glass’s comments that this “places the dealer in a very difficult position because it is next to impossible to prove when the clocking took place. It is often too late to take any action against the driver because the PCP returns paperwork has already been processed and, anyway, they will usually just deny that they have clocked the car.”
Glass’s have come across several cases of this type in recent months being reported by both dealers and motor auctions, but, at this stage, it is too early to say how widespread the practice has become. An increasing amount of industry “clatter” about the subject has been reported and it is considered a growing problem particularly as PCPs “massively increase their market penetration.”
Rupert says there is no easy option to solve the problem but one route may be closer regulation of mileage adjustment companies. He says:
Mileage adjustment of electronic odometers exists for all kinds of good and perfectly legal reasons, such as to correct the reading on a car that has had its dashboard replaced or where the odometer has failed. However, while we have no reason to believe that the majority of operators are anything other than ethical, there do appear to be at least a few who will reduce your mileage without asking many questions. One solution is for dealers to check vehicles for clocking as part of their standard PCP returns procedure. This would effectively ‘prove’ that the vehicle had been clocked during the contract period, placing the onus on the driver for what is, after all, a form of fraud and quite a serious crime.”
Importantly, Rupert notes that clocking by dealers – once considered prevalent in the motor trade – had “effectively become almost unknown in the 21st century because of the strict penalties that existed.”
In Ireland the interference with the odometer of a motor vehicle has been criminalised pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 2014, s.14. The section does afford a defence where: “at the time of the alleged offence the person was acting in good faith in order to test, repair or replace the odometer of the mechanically propelled vehicle.” (s.14(4)) Cartell had long-campaigned for the introduction of that section – even going as far as drafting legislation and presenting it to Government in 2010.
PCPs have become much more prominent lately in the Irish market and also carry mileage penalties.