Who is the vehicle’s keeper?

A recent court case regarding preregistration raised serious issues for dealers about what constitutes “keeping” a vehicle. To makes things clearer the DVLA told Automotive Insight that:

“Our position regarding the term ‘registered keeper’ is clear. A vehicle should be registered in the name of the person or company responsible for taxing the vehicle. They are then also liable for notifying DVLA when someone else takes on that responsibility. “We do of course recognise that there will be owners and users of vehicles. In many cases, the keeper, owner and user will be the same person. In other scenarios, for example with lease and rental vehicles, the relationship can be more complicated. However, we record keepers and the vehicle registration certificate (V5C) makes it clear that possession of the V5C does not prove ownership. “Immediately following the sale of a vehicle to a customer, the DVLA would normally expect to receive a notification of change of keeper. The appropriate boxes on the V5C should be completed and sent to the DVLA. The only time we would not expect to receive a notification is if the customer was only the owner/user and responsibility for taxing had not changed.”

The DVLA cites Section 31A of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, which sets out the offence of being the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle. If a third party or Third Party Company does not retain responsibility for ensuring the vehicle was taxed after it was sold, then there is a separate legal obligation placed upon them to provide DVLA with the details of the person who has taken on that responsibility. The issue over keepership was sparked by a recent court case which found an internet trading company at fault for selling cars it termed ‘preregistered’ to consumers. The internet company bought vehicles for consumers through a third party fleet company to take advantage of fleet discounts. When they sold the vehicles to consumers they delayed transferring the title to the customer. The Judge found that the true registered keeper at all material times was in reality the consumer, not the third party company. The Judge ruled that the registering of the vehicle, and the way it was done, was effectively a sham. The DVLA agrees with the Judge’s ruling.