Car dealers' face 'shambles' after DVA transfer to Swansea

Vehicle licensing offices in Northern Ireland closed to the public on 17 July

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Car dealers in Northern Ireland are facing "massive problems" registering new cars after the Driver Vehicle Agency transferred from Northern Ireland to Wales in July.

"It is horrendous and a shambles," said William McCausland from Fonacab and Crawford Clarke cars.

"We are having problems every day. Most of the cars have to go out with English number plates."

The DVLA said technical difficulties had affected a small number of drivers.

However, for car dealers buying English cars to sell on the Northern Ireland market, the wait to get tax and local registration plates since the switch from Coleraine to Swansea at the end of July, means sales are put at risk, according to Mr McCausland.

"The customers do not like the look of the English plates. It has become a torture," he said.

"To tax the vehicle used to take an hour or so. But we have one vehicle that has been at the bottom of our yard since 30 July. We were on the phone and they still cannot even find the documents that were sent to the DVLA centre in Swansea," he said.

The company fears that the sale is at risk because of the waiting time.

"The people I have been speaking to in Swansea are under massive pressure and I feel for them too," he said.

Individual drivers have also been left stranded.

A County Armagh driver has a car he cannot drive, after he tried to tax it on Monday and the computer said no.

Gerry Gormley went into Lurgan post office on Monday and tried to pay his car tax - but he was told that the computer declined his application.

The problem follows the switch of Driver and Vehicle Agency services from Coleraine to Swansea last month.

Mr Gormley said that when he rang Swansea, they said: "A lot of these cars are not on the database since we took over from Coleraine.

"We can't tax your car, someone from Swansea will ring you in the next two or three days."

He is still waiting for a reply.

Mr Gormley went to the local police station to establish whether he could still drive the car.

"A young lad said they were aware that there was a problem and a lot of people could not get their cars taxed," he said.

Start Quote

How long are we going to have to wait - Is it a week or a month? What about anybody with a fleet of buses or 20 or 30 taxis to tax? What are they going to do? Park the whole lot up until Swansea sorts this out?”

End Quote Gerry Gormley

"In the meantime, we have a car sitting in the driveway that is insured and MOT-ed and we cannot use it."

He has not been able to get an answer and feels exasperated.

"He couldn't give me an answer, nor could Swansea," he said.

"How long are we going to have to wait - Is it a week or a month? What about anybody with a fleet of buses or 20 or 30 taxis to tax? What are they going to do? Park the whole lot up until Swansea sorts this out?"

"This lad said quite a few people have been asking the same thing.

"There have been quite a few people needing tax to commute. If you park your car nowadays and have no tax disc, it would be lifted and impounded - so who pays that fine?"

A DVLA spokeswoman said: "The recent changes to vehicle registration and licensing services in Northern Ireland have been delivered in full consultation with the Driver and Vehicle Agency and stakeholders in Northern Ireland.

"We worked closely to address any anomalies identified between the two systems and as a result, the majority of Northern Ireland records were successfully merged with DVLAs on 21 July.

"However, there have been some technical difficulties for a small number of vehicle records that have migrated from Northern Ireland, which has resulted in a small number of customers having difficulty taxing their vehicle, particularly if they have recently changed their registration number.

"We are working to resolve this issue quickly for our customers and apologise for any inconvenience caused."

In July, DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen said the switch to Swansea had been causing problems for local car dealers. In England, a car must get an MOT test after three years; in Northern Ireland, the test is due after four years.

"Where a car is registered in England in June 2011 and then sold in Northern Ireland in July 2014, a dealer can find himself being told that an application for car tax will not be processed because the computer system will state that it requires an MOT," she said.

"At the same time, the vehicle cannot be MOT'd in Northern Ireland because it is not old enough. In dealing with a situation such as this, Swansea, after some negotiation, agreed to process the application but it would take up to four weeks."

Such delays were a problem for dealers, she said.

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