Thousands unwittingly uninsured in licence confusion

MCE Insurance

Thousands of motorcyclists could be unwittingly riding without insurance because of a disagreement over what constitutes a full licence.

Many riders tell their insurance company they have had a full licence since the date they passed their standard motorcycle test. But the insurance ombudsman has concluded that are wrong and a full licence is only obtained when the 33bhp power restriction is lifted, usually two years after passing the standard test.

It means motorcyclists are misinforming insurers about how long they have held a full licence, potentially rendering their policies invalid. The only riders not affected by the confusion are those who passed their test before the 33bhp restriction came in, or those who took the Direct Access test of the standard one.

Licence Confusion

The confusion has arisen from the codes used by the DVLA to refer to the various kinds of motorcycle licences. The code used by the agency for full unrestricted motorcycle licence is category 'A'. On passing the standard test, riders immediately have this code added to their photo card licence in the list of vehicles they have full entitlement to use. A clarification that they are restricted to 33bhp appears in a separate column on the licence.

But later, DVLA changes the photo card licence to say the rider has only had category 'A' entitlement since the 33bhp restriction expired, up to two years after the category was originally added. The period in which the rider was restricted to 33bhp is now referred to only on the paper counterpart. But here the type of vehicle they were entitled to ride during that period has been changed to category 'A2'.

Insurers in disagreement

According to some insurers, including Carole Nash and MCE, riders who say they have held a full licence since they passed the standard test are correct. But others say they are wrong- and the Financial Ombudsman has just agreed with once such broker.

Alasdair Osborn, 30, had his policy cancelled on his Honda CD200 Benley by eBike after telling the broker he'd held full a licence since passing his standard bike test. The broker argued he had not acquired a full licence until two years later in 2002, when the 33bhp restriction was lifted. The firm demanded £35 extra which Osborn refused to pay.

Complaint rejected

The Ombudsman rejected Osborn's complaint, telling him: "You discussed the problem with the DVLA and various emails confirm you passed your test on 29 April 2000 but- significantly- were restricted from riding larger bikes until 29 April 2002. As a result, you did not have a full licence until 29 April 2002."

Osborn's licence, which has been updated by DVLA, says he has only held a full category 'A' motorcycle entitlement since 2002 and 'A2' since 2000- even though an earlier version said he obtained 'A' in 2000.

DVLA 'amends' licence histories

Osborn has since asked DVLA to clarify his entitlement. A customer services manager replied in a letter: 'I must make it clear from the outset that the department cannot give legal advice.'

The letter admits category 'A2' doesn't actually exist in regulations and was introduce for admin purposes. It adds: 'When you claimed your test pass a 'full' licence was issued showing category 'A'...The entitlement start date would have commenced from 29 April 2000 but with reference to the two-year restriction would also have been indicated.

'When you updated the photograph on your licence in May this year, as the two-year restrictions had lapsed, your licence was automatically changed to show unrestricted 'A' category with the start date being amended to being from 29 April 2002.'

'Complete farce'

Osborn, 30, a lab assistant from Peterborough, Cambs, said: "It's a complete farce. I was always under the impression that if you passed a test, the day you passed was the day you qualified. The DVLA says it's down to the courts to settle but presumably I'd have to fund any action. Why should I pay to clarify the terms used by a government agency?"

A DVLA spokeswomen said: 'After the two-year period, we do not remove the restriction from the category A and leave the test pass date, because that would wrongly convey that unrestricted motorcycles could have been driven from the test pass date. DVLA issues licences in as clear a format as possible.'

eBike said: 'As the DVLA- issued photo card licence for MR Osborn indicated he had a full motorcycle licence which had commenced in 2002, this conflicted with the information he had supplied.'

As reported by Steve Farrel for MCN (18 January 2012)

25.01.2012 - MCN

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