Cases of car cloning in London have risen by a staggering 50%, with concerns that similar levels may be occurring across the rest of the UK, according to official Transport for London (TfL) released recently.
The consumer motoring website, HonestJohn.co.uk, analysed previously unseen TfL data for the Congestion Charge zone, and found that the number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) being cancelled due to car cloning has soared.
In 2016, the number cancelled on the grounds that the car was a clone was 1,099. Then, in 2017, this figure increased by 50%, to 1,652, and data for the first six months of 2018 shows PCN cancellations continuing to rise, up by a worrying 30% on 2017. In the event of a PCN being issued due to a cloned car, the legitimate registered keeper is required to provide evidence to satisfy the issuer of the ticket that their car was not at the time and place where the alleged offence occurred.
There are a number of steps car owners can take to protect themselves, with the most obvious one being photos of their car to show the subtle differences between the clone and legitimate vehicle. Legal number plates usually have the manufacturer’s logo on them, while the clones are usually blank. CCTV footage will also prove a car’s location at a certain time, along with footage from a dash camera with GPS tracking.
As part of its detailed response to HonestJohn.co.uk’s findings, TfL said: “Prior to issuing the PCN, we manually verify that the image of the vehicle observed in the zone matches the vehicle information provided by the DVLA. Only when there is a match is a penalty issued. At the point of issuing the penalty, we would not know if a vehicle had been cloned.
“On receipt of the penalty, a motorist can follow the representations and appeals procedure and challenge a PCN. If we receive a representation stating a vehicle has been cloned we request evidence to confirm this.”
The Congestion Charge zone is enforced by a network of roadside automatic number plate recognition cameras (commonly known as ANPR), which record the registration and image of each vehicle as it enters and leaves the zone. Drivers who do not pay the London Congestion zone fee are sent a PCN for £130, which they need to pay within 28 days. TfL usually reduces the penalty to £65 if it is paid within 14 days.
The arrival of a congestion-charge-related penalty charge notice is the first that an increasingly large number of innocent motorists ever hear about their car having been cloned.