Three year investigation by AngryPolicyholders.com raises serious allegations that the passenger transport industry is clocking their vehicles on ‘an unprecedented scale’
Consumer website AngryPolicyholders.com has this week made astonishing claims that the UK passenger transport industry is risking the lives of their passengers by tampering with vehicles electronic systems by allegedly clocking vehicles.
These shocking findings should send shockwaves throughout the industry and regulators due to the serious safety ramifications that altering the odometer on a vehicle causes. The investigation which is expected to go public in the next week or so has investigated a number of UK companies providing passenger transport services.
Chris Hargreaves, founder of AngryPolicyholders.com, and a freelance investigative journalist specialising in complex consumer and criminal cases exclusively told LTU: ‘The evidence gathered is of such concern that files on a number of UK operators have been passed over to the police and other agencies throughout the three year investigation.’
Mr Hargreaves continued: ‘I am shocked at the scale of the problem of car clocking in general across the UK, an act of fraud which is costing UK consumers over a billion pounds a year, but more so that the government has failed to act to actually make the act of tampering with, or altering the odometer of a vehicle a criminal offence in its own right.’
Licensed Transport Uncovered are very concerned about these allegations as the subsequent offences and ramifications of using ‘clocked’ vehicles in the passenger transport industry shows the total disregard to passengers safety which raises further questions as to what else could a driver or operator be up to if they are willing to take such risks?
Our own Secret Squirrel , head of intelligence and investigations at Licensed Transport Uncovered was contacted by Mr Hargreaves to assist on the investigation into operators in the UK alleged to be clocking vehicles. The Secret Squirrel told LTU: ‘There have always been rumours of this manipulation of mileage taking place for many years, however we have never been able to substantiate the claims.’
The Squirrel continued: ‘To have been able to see evidence first-hand of vehicles histories enabled LTU to assist and widen the investigation into the passenger transport industry, working with partners and government agencies to investigate what can only be described as a significant problem within the industry.’
‘We were shocked at the naivety of leasing and finance companies who seemed to sign off deals which were based on unrealistic annual mileages – as little as 20,000 mile per year. When considering ‘dead mileage’ of around fifty per cent it raises the serious question: on this mileage how on earth can the vehicle pay for itself?’
Having helped with the investigation The Secret Squirrel and his team contacted a number of licensing officials to raise concerns about car clocking with the industry. One such official has started checking mileage data and history on vehicles that intend to be licensed for the private hire industry. Already, anomalies have shown up on a number of vehicles where significant mileage has disappeared from odometers prior to licensing tests.
The Secret Squirrel raises the following point: ‘Should a vehicle that is showing mileage discrepancies be allowed to be used for carrying members of the public around, even if the vehicle itself is able to pass an council MOT?’
The reason for the question and serious concerns relates to the electronic systems being tampered with and the fact that in the event of an accident systems such as airbags may not be deployed because of conflicts in the ECU or other electronic components.
Clocking also raises the matter of insurance implications. LTU are aware that passengers are always covered in the event of an accident by the Road Traffic Act, however, is a person knowingly driving a vehicle that is clocked a ‘fit and proper person’ to be driving members of the public around the UK?
Mr Hargreaves stated: ‘The simple answer is no. A claim made on a clocked vehicles opens a can of worms for both drivers and passengers in the event of an accident. An insurer could deny a claim and therefore complicate any injury claim for a passenger or innocent third party.’
‘Also, you have the situation where the owner of the clocked vehicle is committing insurance fraud by claiming for a sum which could be substantially more than the real value of the vehicle. And finally, the driver at the time who may or may not be aware of the clocking of the vehicle faces the real possibility of being prosecuted for driving without insurance if the insurer in question voids the insurance, either at the time or at a later date if it found the vehicle has been clocked.’
The ramifications are clear, but as a reporter I wanted to know what about the drivers working for companies or who are actually participating in allegedly clocking of vehicles? The overwhelming consensus is they would become unemployable within the industry if it was found that they were either involved or knowingly turning a blind-eye, resulting in a swift end to their career in the industry. After all, why would you want to employ somebody who has a total disregard for clients and passengers safety?
It is clear that councils need to take the matter of clocked vehicles seriously that are being used within the trade and stamp out the problem by being more proactive by working with agencies and sharing mileage data on vehicles they are licensing around the UK. It should be a condition of a vehicle and drivers licence that councils will carry out vehicle mileage checks and if it is found that a vehicle has a mileage discrepancy that the council has a right to refuse to licence a vehicle or renew a licence.
If vehicles are claiming to be travelling low mileage the owner or licence holder should have to prove why or how this mileage is genuine and with current powers councils could use their right to check booking data for vehicles to calculate if the stated mileage is correct. Councils could go even further and request to see leasing agreements stating the annual mileage allowance to prevent vehicles entering the industry which could be targeted for clocking.
This investigation by AngryPolicyholders.com puts a whole new spin on the issue of car clocking in the UK. We are consistently being warned about rogue traders selling clocked cars, but this investigation raises serious concerns about the actual use of clocked vehicles prior to sale. The investigation not only looked at the passenger transport industry but businesses in general and it seems that the issue of clocking is wide-spread across a number of industries.
Considering the scale of the problem we will be investigation this matter further whilst at the same time using our industry contacts to help raises the issue within the national press and media, along with supplier to the passenger transport industry.