Government ombudsman criticises DVLA over campervan confusion
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) investigated two cases brought by people who converted vans into campervans but had multiple applications to change their vehicle’s log book rejected by the DVLA.
Having a vehicle registered as a van with windows rather than a motor caravan (the term ‘motor caravan’ is used by the DVLA for both campervans and motorhomes) means the owner can face a number of issues, including higher fees on toll roads, costlier MoTs, having to abide by different speed limits and not being allowed on some campsites.
Ombudsman, Rob Behrens says,
David Hollingsworth and Maddy Muffett brought their complaints to the Ombudsman separately. In both cases, they had built their campervans by following guidance on the DVLA website. During the investigation, the DVLA admitted it knew at the time that this information was out of date. It has since been updated.
After being rejected, Mr Hollingsworth and Mrs Muffett asked the DVLA for advice on what to do to satisfy the requirements. However, rather than being given specific instructions, they were only given suggestions that might make a difference, such as adding awning rails or stickers to the exterior. After doing this, including, in Mr Hollingsworth’s case, adding a big sticker that said ‘campervan’ on all four sides of the vehicle, both his and Mrs Muffet’s applications were rejected by the DVLA again.
Mr and Mrs Hollingsworth spent £15,000 to convert their van into a campervan. He and his wife, a retired lawyer, are now considering taking the issue to judicial review.
Mr Hollingsworth says,
Mrs Muffett and her husband's applications to the DVLA were rejected four times.
Mrs Muffett says,
The number of successful applications to the DVLA for a change in body type to motor caravan dropped by 95% from 2,447 to 133 between January/February 2019 and January/February 2020. The DVLA said this was due to making changes to the way it processed applications after realising in June 2019 that it had not been applying its existing vehicle body type policy as originally intended.
The ombudsman found that not communicating about this significant change in a clear and timely way was maladministration on the part of the DVLA.
The DVLA was also found guilty of maladministration for not being transparent about what’s required to register a vehicle as a campervan and its processes.
The PHSO recommended that the DVLA
- Apologises to the complainants and gives them £100 in recognition of their distress, confusion, and frustration
- Creates an action plan about how it intends to ensure that applicants have sufficiently detailed information available to them, before undertaking a conversion, about what elements constitute a vehicle of body type motor caravan
- Provides the ombudsman with details of how it intends to make clear to customers the process involved in determining a body type and, in particular, making a decision on what body type to assign an application for a body type motor caravan.
Though these recommendations are not legally binding, it is unusual for the recommendations not to be actioned. In fact, we were told that letters of apologies and compensation had already been issued to the complainants in the case above and it seems the guidance on the DVLA website has been altered.
A DVLA spokesperson said,
These cases took over a year to be investigated and resolved; however, we are assured that future related cases would take much less time.
The PHSO will deal with any complaint about a government department or the health service. However, you have to follow the complaints procedure with the department or organisation first and, if you don’t get a satisfactory answer, you can then address your complaint to the PHSO. There is an added complexity that the form is quite long and you will need the signature of your MP. The law also says that people should complain to the PHSO within a year of becoming aware of the problem. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, the ombudsman can decide to still consider a complaint outside of this if it has good reasons to do so.
Find information about this on the PHSO website.
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