21 July 2008 by Parkers Team

  • Investigation reveals that three-out-of-four road tax enquiries are answered incorrectly
  • Confused DVLA call centre staff give misleading information
  • Wrong road tax figures were out by an average of more than £100

An undercover Parker’s investigation has revealed that the DVLA could be giving misleading and inaccurate information to as many as three-in-four motorists.

Following a tip-off from a Parker’s reader about mistakes by the Government agency, we made 100 enquiries by telephone and email to the DVLA’s Swansea-based call centre, posing as members of the public.

We picked 100 of the cars that are worst affected by upcoming VED rules changes, those registered between March 2001 and March 2006 that produce more than 225g/km CO2, to test whether the DVLA knew that the cars would temporarily move into Band K next year (£300 in road tax) before being liable for a £430 or £455 charge in 2010.

The results will shock anyone who relies on the DVLA for accurate, dependable information.

76 of the 100 cars were given wrong road tax figures for at least one of the three years we enquired about; only one-in-ten was answered with correct information. Parker’s received a string of ill-informed and inaccurate replies that points to poor briefing of staff at the front-line of dealing with road tax enquiries.

The changes in 2009 

The biggest area of concern, and confusion among DVLA call centre staff, surrounds what is happening in 2009. Cars that emit more than 200 g/km CO2, but registered between March 2001 and March 2006, will move from Band F to Band K – a rise of £90.

Most of the call centre staff that Parker’s spoke to were unaware of this and instead mistakenly placed the cars into bands L or M – the bands they will be in from 2010. We were advised that the cost of road tax will be £415 or £440 – depending on emissions – rather than the £300 it actually is.

But it’s the lack of thorough understanding about the new road tax rules among DVLA staff that should worry most car buyers.

Parker’s was told by one customer service adviser that: “This year it [road tax] might not even go up. But it may go up. But I don’t know how much it’ll go up by.” Another said that a year’s road tax in 2009 would be £445 – a rate that doesn’t even exist. During one of our calls, we were informed that a Jeep Cherokee 2.8-litre CRD would cost £750 EVERY year to tax from 2010 onwards – even though this figure only applies to the first year the car is on sale.

After the 100 enquiries, the DVLA had made mistakes that averaged £104.44 per enquiry.

When presented with Parker's findings, the DVLA initially maintained that the information provided by their call centre staff was correct - hinting at confusion about the changes throughout the Agency. It was only when Parker's sent evidence in the form of a Parlimentary Written Answer, to prove that Band F cars registered before March 2006 would only pay £300 next year, that the DVLA admitted to its mistake:

"Thank you for bringing this issue to DVLA's attention. The Agency apologises for the confusion caused in our responses to both you and to any callers to DVLA regarding the VED rates in 2009.  DVLA has taken appropriate steps to ensure that we are now giving out correct and consistent information."

Do It Yourself

The majority of the DVLA’s responses via email merely included a confusing table – which ignored high-emission cars registered before 23rd March 2006 – for motorists to navigate the road tax minefield themselves.

In total, 12% of tax enquiries were answered in this way and those left perplexed were encouraged to get in touch with the Treasury, instead.

Unlike Parker’s quick and easy road tax calculator, the DVLA require either the car’s registration number or its emissions figure before answering a road tax enquiry.

Each car’s emissions are listed in the log book (also called a V5 document), though it may not be possible for potential buyers to obtain this without owning the car. This makes it difficult to find out how much a car will cost to tax before buying it – and making a costly mistake.

Make your ten-second road tax calculations here.