Car cloning rise in London results in unfair ULEZ penalties

London has seen a huge rise in unfair Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) being handed to innocent drivers, as car cloning is on the rise in the capital.

Car cloning can involve criminals physically stealing registration plates or using fake plates on another vehicle, which have typically been stolen, are unroadworthy or used for illegal activity.

Online car marketplace heycar analysed previously unseen data from Transport for London (TfL) showing the rate of PCNs being handed out since the Ultra-Low Emission Zone was expanded in October 2021.

Researchers found a 631% increase in PCNs being overturned due to cloning compared to the year before, while an 857% increase was discovered between April 2021 and April 2022.

Legitimate registered owners are required to provide evidence that their car was not at the time and place where the alleged offence occurred, otherwise they face charges of £160 or £80 if paid within 14 days.

cars passing through north and south

heycar’s Consumer Editor, Sarah Tooze, said: ‘These car cloning figures are the tip of the iceberg. Many drivers are unable to provide the evidence TfL requires to cancel the PCN due to the vehicle being a clone. Appealing the PCN process can also be complicated and intimidating, which means many more victims will pay the fine to avoid the stress and end the matter.

‘The true number of cloned cars in London and elsewhere in the UK will be much higher but there are no official, national statistics which are publicly available. We are urging the DVLA to publish car cloning figures so drivers can see the true scale of the problem within the UK.

‘There needs to be greater transparency around this serious crime and tighter regulations to help prevent innocent motorists being stung with fines or, worse still, losing thousands of pounds by unknowingly buying a cloned vehicle.’

Vehicle crime in general is increasing, with England and Wales seeing a 7% rise in vehicle theft since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

The appeals process for PCNs is complicated and can force victims to go to great lengths to prove their innocence, as some local authorities and transport bodies need information from the police which can be difficult to obtain.

72-year-old Marc Cramsie from London faced six PCNs potentially costing up to £1,070 when he was a victim of car cloning in 2021.

He paid his first fine, but soon realised something wasn’t right when he received a PCN from Brighton when he wasn’t even in the country and decided to start the appeals process.

Mr Cramsie said Brighton and Hove City Council wanted evidence the police were investigating his car: ‘They wanted the police station details and a crime reference number but when I rang up the police they logged my call but did not give me a crime reference as they couldn’t treat it as a crime.’

It wasn’t until he took the case to a tribunal that he was successful in having the PCNs lifted.

‘The presumption very much seems to be that you’re guilty until you can prove your innocence,’ he said. ‘Somebody less dogged than me might be frightened into just paying up when they don’t need to.’

Photo by Alexander Popov


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