Number plates to the scrapheap?

Number Plates

The DVLA has always withheld number plates which it deems to be offensive. However, it may expand its definition of what is considered unacceptable, raising the possibility that existing number plates could be reclassified. What would happen in those circumstances? Could such number plates be recalled?

The difficulty here is that personalised number plates command a premium. Twice a year, new plates which can be read as recognised words attract bids from collectors, investors and those keen to add a note of individuality to their vehicle. If they have paid a large sum for a particular plate only for it to be considered offensive at a later date, how can this be resolved?

There are clearly no issues with the majority of plates, but the sums involved give some indication as to what is at stake. The DVLA raised £67 million from selling personalised plates last year. In 2009, the 1 D plate sold for £352,000, while other expensive examples include 51 NGH for £254,000, 1 RH for £247,000 and K1 NGS for £231,000.

The format of a British car number plate is such that the first two letters indicate the place where the car was registered and the third and fourth digits indicate the car’s age, while the last three letters are random. Due to certain typographical conventions, it is generally accepted that several numbers can be read as if they were letters, giving rise to the possibility that all sorts of words can be spelt out.

Many personalised number plates which have been deemed to contain rude or offensive words have been scrapped by the DVLA. A committee meets twice a year to discuss upcoming letter and number combinations and to decide whether they are acceptable or not. Anything crude, racist or in any way offensive is likely to be withdrawn.

For example, any plate ending in KOK is banned, as are more specific plates such as SH12 EDD and BO11 CKS. Even plates which are merely close to offensive words have been withdrawn, such as BL08 JOB, BB11 TCH and BU62 GER. Plates such as DR12 UGS, MU12 DER and MA12 TYR have also been deemed unfit for sale.

At present, many text message style abbreviations are still acceptable, but there is no saying that the DVLA will not redraw the boundaries of acceptability at some stage. At present, you can still get number plates ending in OMG and even WTF – but for how long? The latter is not offensive in itself, yet the expanded version of the abbreviation clearly is.

A DVLA spokesman said:

“The vast majority of registration numbers are made available but we have a responsibility to ensure that the combinations used do not cause offence. We try to identify combinations that may cause offence and, having considered the appropriateness of these registration numbers, we have withdrawn them as they could cause offence or embarrassment on the grounds of political or racial sensitivities or are in poor taste.”

Good taste and offensiveness are of course subjective, but the DVLA is the organisation entrusted with maintaining standards and it therefore has the final say. What will happen if your number plate is reclassified as being one likely to offend?

This article was written by David Jones on behalf of Money4yourmotors , Money4yourmotors are an online car buying service operating throughout the UK.