Clockers thought to cost car buyers up to €60m in inflated car values annually are to be criminalised under Irish law
Leo Varadkar the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is today set to propose an amendment to the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013 which will make it an offence to tamper with an odometer of a motor vehicle. The amendments are currently at report stage and will be brought before the Dáil today. If accepted they must pass through all stages in the Seanad, but a spokesperson for the Department is hopeful that the amendments will be enacted into legislation within a number of weeks.
Car clocking involves the dishonest practice of winding the odometer reading on a car backwards. The end goal is usually to misrepresent the true mileage of the vehicle and offer it for sale at a much higher value than it was worth before being clocked.
Under current legislation the practice of clocking is not an offence in itself. The National Consumer Agency (NCA) successfully prosecuted a number Motor Dealers in recent times under Consumer Protection Legislation for engaging in "Misleading Practices". But prosecutions have been difficult to achieve and the sanctions involved are usually no more than a slap on the wrist and a small fine for the Dealer. Despite the best efforts of the NCA the problem has not been curbed in the slightest.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport today said "The law at present makes it illegal for a car dealer to sell a “clocked” vehicle, under the Consumer Protection Act 2007. However, there is currently no law against tampering with an odometer, or ‘clocking’, in itself. Minister Varadkar has considered this issue, and is of the view that this a gap in the law, and needs to be addressed. The Minister is therefore proposing an amendment to the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013 which will make it an offence to tamper with an odometer, or to procure someone else to tamper with one. The proposal has been with the Office of the Attorney General, and the Minister is satisfied that the penalties which will be proposed are proportionate."
It is thought that offenders, if found guilty, will face a fine of up to €5,000 or up to three months in jail.
A recent study of over 100,000 vehicles by Car History Check experts Motorcheck.ie showed that as many as 15% of vehicles on the road could be clocked. The incidence of this practice also seems to be slightly higher with UK imports.
Motorcheck has been involved in the fight against car clocking for a long time and has campaigned for tougher legislation against the practice. First in Ireland to set up a publicly accessible database of vehicle odometer readings, Motorcheck's "Irish National Mileage Register" now holds almost 9m readings for Irish vehicles and can access hundreds of millions of readings for UK vehicles.
This is a very positive move by the powers that be to assist the authorities with combating the problem of clocking and we would be optimistic that such an amendment to the legislation will be warmly welcomed by all that have an interest in keeping our roads safe.
One of least publicised facts about clocking is that the practice not only misrepresents the true mileage of the vehicle but a clocked car can prove to be a serious threat to the safety of the driver and other road users as the proper functioning of safety features and warning lights on the vehicle are very often compromised in addition to the odometer when the on board computer is interfered with.
Based on research carried out by Motorcheck.ie it is thought that clockers in Ireland could be costing car buyers up to €60m per year in inflated prices. If a car is found to have been clocked it will generally mean that 25% of the value of the vehicle will evaporate overnight. This is cost that any unsuspecting consumer can ill afford in today's straightened times.
"Tampering with odometers is doubly unacceptable. First, it is unacceptable from a commercial point of view, because it misrepresents the extent to which a vehicle being resold has been used. Second, it is unacceptable from a safety point of view, as it gives the impression that a vehicle has been subjected to less wear and tear than is in fact the case." said a spokeperson for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Its seems that the legislative amendments have been very well thought through. There are a small number of scenarios where legitimate work needs to be carried out on a vehicle's odometer but according to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport the wording has been carefully drafted to ensure that people who are legitimately accessing odometers are not penalised, for example while repairing a vehicle, and also to ensure that trip-counters are not included in the definition of an odometer.
Time will tell how successful this initiative will be but it is widely believed that criminalising the practice itself should be enough to discourage the vast majority of "casual clockers" and those who persist must be dealt with to the full extent of the new law so that the message is received loud and clear. Ireland will not tolerate clocking!