Car scam fraudsters are costing each motorist at least €40 a year in increased insurance bills, according to AA Ireland.
It called on the Government to scrap all insurance, tax, and NCT windscreen discs in a bid to tackle the problem.
The organisation called the windscreen discs “an invitation to fraud” and recommended they be replaced with an automatic number-plate recognition system.
“In years gone by, the discs may have been a reasonable way to prove your car was compliant but ever since the introduction of colour printers they are a fraudster’s charter,” said AA’s director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan.
“They are of no value in preventing a crime that is adding at least €40 to every motorist’s insurance bill.
“We need a modern system, as has been introduced in the UK, that will scan registration plates and use databases that already exist.”
Mr Faughnan said anybody with a colour printer can create a fake disc for their car, while others select to pay for their insurance in monthly installments but only pay the first one. Their policy is then cancelled, but they still have a “valid” disc for the rest of the year.
“The reality is that more than 2m Irish drivers, we collectively do a whip-round and we collectively put a minimum of €40 each into a kitty that goes to pay for the chancers and the fraudsters and the uninsured,” said Mr Faughnan.
“While removing paper discs won’t eradicate that problem, it will, at the very least, make that particular type of fraud less comically easy to carry out.
“A piece of paper in the windscreen has absolutely no value in telling a garda whether a car actually is taxed or insured or not. You could almost literally ask people to write on a Post-It ‘I promise I paid all my taxes’ and put that in the windscreen. It would be about as much value.”
In addition to the cost of fraud, the cost of producing, posting, and dealing with the administration requirements of issuing insurance, tax, and NCT discs is €10m every year.
The AA has recommended a number-plate recognition system which is in use in the UK and in parts of Australia and the US.
Essentially, it would require gardaí to be equipped with smartphones that carry a garda app which would allow them to instantly search an already existing database to check if a car had valid tax, insurance, and NCT.
“We’re not looking for the moon here. It’s a relativity modest investment, we’d be following a path other countries have already gone down and I see no good reason why we shouldn’t do it here,” said Mr Faughnan.
“Why are we spending €10m a year producing these bits of paper? They do not serve any purpose, at all.
“If anything they make the detection of fraud more difficult. So let’s stop doing it and let’s use the resource instead to give the gardaí the equipment they need to police this properly,” he said.
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