Properly controlled data release from the DVLA Vehicle Register helps keep Britain’s motorists moving safely and legally while also adding to the quality of life for millions of people. But what are the rules? What kind of data do we manage and who has access to it?
In all matters regarding data release we act responsibly and in accordance with legislation.
What is vehicle keeper information?
DVLA holds a register containing details of all vehicles licensed for use on the road along with the name and address of the registered keeper for each vehicle.
The registered keeper is the person or organisation responsible for the licensing and use of a vehicle. The registered keeper is often, but not always, the legal owner of the vehicle.
What is the vehicle register used for?
Information on the register can be used to help prevent and detect crime, prosecute offenders, collect fines, improve road safety and make sure vehicles are properly taxed.
If I’m the registered keeper, does the DVLA have to ask my permission before passing my details to other people?
No. Although the details on the register are not open to the public they can be released on request for a number of reasons. These can include release to the police or a local authority for the investigation of a criminal offence or a non-criminal parking offence.
Can DVLA release information to private companies or individuals?
Yes. The law allows us to release information to anyone who can prove they have 'reasonable cause' to have it. The applicant has to abide by a set of strict conditions and pay an administration fee to receive the information.
In addition, all companies that apply for Approved Conditional Access (ACA) status, which allows companies to request and receive data via a secure electronic link, must first serve a six-month probationary period making manual requests before any link can be established. These links are operated in the context of clear terms of agreement, which details when information may be requested, how it can be used and how it should be stored.
What does 'reasonable cause' mean?
In DVLA’s view, reasonable cause relates to incidents with liability. These can include matters of road safety, events occurring as a direct consequence of the use of a vehicle, the enforcement of road traffic legislation and the collection of taxes.
Circumstances that have been judged to meet the reasonable cause criteria include safety recalls by manufacturers, minor hit and run incidents not warranting a full police investigation, housing associations dealing with abandoned vehicles, the enforcement of parking restrictions on private property and insurance companies dealing with accidents and investigating fraud.
Reasonable cause for data release
What evidence is required from parking companies to receive DVLA data?
Companies requesting information to enforce parking fees must provide details of their business activities along with evidence to show they are acting on behalf of the land owner, that a parking charge scheme actually exists and that motorists are made aware of the scheme in force.
What charge is made by DVLA and what does it cover?
We charge a fee of £2.50 to cover the administration costs associated with supplying information from the register to third parties. This means that the applicant, and not the taxpayer, pays for processing the request.
How much profit does DVLA make from data release?
We don’t make any profit. Although the regulations allow us to charge a fee to cover the processing costs of providing information, we are similarly prohibited from making a profit.
How many requests for information does DVLA receive each year?
Last year we received around 9.4 million requests.
Where do most of the requests come from?
The majority of last year’s requests, approximately 7.8 million, came from the police and local authorities.
How many requests were from car parks?
Of the 9.4 million requests received last year, only about 800,000 were from parking companies.
Who else commonly requests information?
Last year we received a combined total of around 800,000 requests from the insurance sector, legal sector, finance leasing sector, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), other private companies and members of the public; all of whom demonstrated reasonable cause to receive information.
How many complaints does DVLA receive about personal data release?
The total number of complaints received last year was 450.
What sort of complaints do people make?
Of the 450 complaints received last year, 425 were about why we had released personal data and querying what the law allows. This was even though the parties involved had demonstrated reasonable cause to receive the information and had made perfectly legitimate requests.
25 complaints were concerned with the incorrect release of data. When we investigated these we found they were due to human error either on the part of DVLA or the third party.
How do car parking companies access DVLA data?
They can do so by means of either a secure electronic link or by making a manual request. We have strict safeguards in place for both routes.
All companies requiring access to DVLA data via a secure electronic link are required to be a member of a DVLA Accredited Trade Association (ATA) and operate in compliance with the association’s code of practice. From 23 November 2009, that requirement will also cover car parking companies making manual requests.
The ATA for the car parking industry is the British Parking Association (BPA) and their code of practice can be viewed at www.britishparking.co.uk.
What is the process for accessing data via an electronic link?
Organisations requesting information via a secure electronic link do so under strict terms of agreement for when information may be requested and how it must be stored.
Before an electronic service is offered to an organisation it must serve a six month probationary period of manual requests, during which time its behaviour in the use of data is monitored. Once a link is established, the organisation is subject to audit to ensure that all terms and conditions are being followed.
What is the process for accessing data manually?
Companies that request information via manual channels have to provide detailed information about their operations, why they want the information and how it will be used. They also have to provide evidence to corroborate their request, and car parking companies have to confirm that a parking scheme is in operation, and prove they are working on the instruction of the land owner.
Information will then be disclosed on the condition that it will only be used for the purposes it was requested.
We conduct ad-hoc audits on companies to ensure that all requests are appropriate and that data provided is stored and used as agreed.
What is DVLA doing about details being accessed by criminals?
We believe it is vitally important to safeguard the information we release from misuse and have a range of robust measures in place to protect against it.
If it is brought to our attention that an organisation may be misusing data we will immediately suspend the release of further data to the organisation and instigate a thorough investigation. Any evidence of abuse will be referred to the Information Commissioner for further investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution.