- The number of personal records sold has tripled since 2006
- Sensitive data on 85,0000 drivers went missing after parking firm went bust
- Another company sold on details for profit
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has sold sensitive personal details of more than 7,000 drivers to a convicted criminal and his company.
Today’s revelation comes despite the quango’s promises to clean up its act in the wake of a similar scandal seven years ago.
Yet The Mail on Sunday can disclose that the DVLA sold motorists’ names and addresses to a parking enforcement company just seven weeks after it admitted dozens of criminal offences.
'Reckless': Douglas Harris, left, admitted 36 offences. Right, Dale Key has 'no idea' what happened to the details of 85,000 drivers
The Mail on Sunday can also disclose the DVLA has sold 4.85 million drivers’ names and addresses to parking enforcement firms in the past six years at £2.50 a time – without checking if the companies’ use for the private information was legitimate.
This includes details of nearly one million drivers being passed to 12 firms that were subsequently suspended from accessing the register due to wrongdoing or bankruptcy.
As well as these records, which were sold and accessed electronically, companies pursuing parking fines can make individual postal applications to the DVLA, boosting its income from the sale of personal data to £20.8 million over the past five years.
Last night, Labour MP Anne McGuire said: ‘It is unacceptable that the DVLA is still handing out this confidential information on drivers without doing due diligence on either the companies or the individuals at the head of those firms.’
In 2005, we revealed the agency had sold personal data to two convicted criminals who ran a wheel-clamping firm, prompting Ministers to announce a crackdown and to the DVLA making a string of reforms.
The Mail on Sunday can also disclose the DVLA has sold 4.85million drivers names and addresses to parking enforcement firms in the past six years at £2.50 a time
Our new investigation has found:
- The number of names and addresses being sold by the DVLA to parking enforcement companies has more than tripled since 2006.
- The agency plans to make significant profits from selling the details by upping the fee to help plug a £100 million gap in its finances.
- Another parking enforcement firm is alleged to have broken DVLA rules by selling thousands of drivers’ name and addresses at a profit to another company.
- A further parking company bought the details of 85,000 drivers, but a director admits he does not know what has happened to the data after his firm went into receivership.
Other parking companies can receive the data only by submitting postal applications, which are individually vetted by the DVLA.
Leading the way: How the Mail on Sunday has reported the DVLA scandal
Harris’s firm OPC has bought 23,663 motorists’ names and addresses from the DVLA since 2006. Last year, Wolverhampton Trading Standards investigated a number of claims that OPC was breaching the code of practice imposed by industry trade body, the British Parking Association (BPA).
These included sending parking tickets to car owners up to five months after they parked, erecting misleading signs, dismissing legitimate appeals and unnecessarily involving debt collection agencies.
In March 2011, Harris and OPC admitted 36 offences at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court, which said the firm had been ‘unreasonable, unfair, intransigent, and had deliberately misled motorists’ as it imposed the substantial fine.
Harris, as the company’s director, admitted ‘recklessly engaging in unfair commercial practice which contravenes the requirements of professional diligence’. This is a criminal offence under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Harris admitted taking more than the required 28 days to request details of the owners of vehicles from the DVLA. He also pleaded guilty to displaying 15 misleading signs and sending letters from a debt recovery firm without revealing it was owned by OPC itself.
The DVLA suspended OPC from accessing drivers’ details electronically, as the BPA carried out an investigation into the firm. But just 44 days later, the trade body gave OPC a clean bill of health and the DVLA lifted the suspension.
This allowed OPC to immediately obtain the drivers’ details of 1,120 vehicles it claimed to have caught parking illegally during its suspension. In the past 12 months OPC has bought details of 6,000 more drivers.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has sold sensitive personal details of more than 7,000 drivers to a convicted criminal and his company
A BPA spokesman said: ‘Our compliance team carried out an inspection of the services provided by OPC and were satisfied that significant efforts had been made to rectify their practices.’
'I don't know what happened to the data'In 2005, The Mail on Sunday revealed the DVLA had sold drivers’ details to the bosses of a Portsmouth wheel-clamping firm. The company’s directors were jailed for blackmail and extorting money from motorists. Several reforms were made, but campaigners say the process is still open to abuse.
Last week we revealed how the boss of parking enforcement firm Wilsea Services, which was struck off by the BPA last month, was sold the names and addresses of 43,000 motorists by the DVLA in just 20 months. The firm, owned by Stephen Warburton, has now been accused of breaking DVLA rules by profiting from selling on personal details.
A director of parking firm Debt Recovery Plus said he paid Wilsea £3 each for thousands of names. Gary Brierley said: ‘We paid them a fee to use their link. We paid them 50p per detail on top of the £2.50.’ Mr Warburton who is believed to be working in America, was unavailable for comment.
Another parking firm, Central Ticketing bought the details of 85,000 drivers despite being the subject of a string of investigations. But the company went into receivership last year and director Dale Key, 27, said he has ‘no idea’ what happened to the details.
He said: ‘When it was liquidated I completely took my hands off it. I don’t know what happened to the data.’
A DVLA spokesman said: ‘Landowners have a right to impose legitimate parking rules so we have to strike a balance – allowing fair enforcement but protecting motorists.
‘That is why information is only provided under strict controls to parking firms who meet the standards set by an appropriate accredited trade association and are compliant with its code of practice.
‘All companies which make electronic requests have to serve a six-month probationary period where their requests are closely monitored.’
A spokesman for the BPA said: ‘Ultimately we can expel a member, which removes an operator’s access to the DVLA database, but there are many who operate without access.
‘We have repeatedly asked the Government to make it illegal for such companies to trade without any form of regulation but they have, so far, refused to do so.’