NCT accused of hiding behind data protection laws

A leading motor assessor has accused the national car testing service, which is refusing to release NCT results on a car which was involved in a fatal road traffic accident, of hiding behind data protection laws.

NCT accused of hiding behind data protection laws

Liam Cotter, who has 25 year’s experience in the motor industry, who has a law degree and who specialises in EU competition law, contract law and consumer law relating to the motor industry, said grieving mother Paula Murphy has been treated very badly by the system.

“As far as I’m concerned, the vehicle test results become part of the vehicle’s record — part of its history,” he said.

“And when a person buys a car, the new owner should have access to the full history of the vehicle, including NCT test sheet results.”

He said if such a vehicle is then involved in a fatal road traffic accident, next-of-kin should be entitled to the information, irrespective of who owned the vehicle when it underwent its last NCT.

Mr Cotter is trying to help Ms Murphy establish why her daughter’s defective car veered out of control and crashed in 2012.

Amanda O’Flaherty, 26, was driving to her sister’s home in Cobh around 5pm on December 29, 2012 when she was involved in a two-vehicle crash.

An inquest at Cork City Coroner’s Court heard evidence that the 95-D registered Mazda 121 she was driving that night was not roadworthy.

Amanda had bought the car just six months earlier from a man in Co Cork for just €600.

The man had arranged for it to undergo an NCT in a Co Cork centre on May 31, 2012, and an NCT certificate was issued.

But a garda PSV inspector told the inquest that the rear suspension system was not operating effectively. The two rear shocks were leaking an excessive amount of oil, which would have greatly reduced damping effect. The defects would have made the vehicle unstable before and during cornering, he said.

“From my examination of this vehicle, I am satisfied that it was not in a roadworthy condition prior to the accident given the condition of the rear shocks,” the garda expert said.

The inquest also heard evidence that there was no indication that Amanda was driving dangerously, and that everything appeared normal until her car veered onto the wrong side of the road.

The driver of the other car said he noticed Amanda’s car “suddenly and without warning” shoot sideways across the white line onto his side of the road, directly in front of him.

The front of his car struck Amanda’s car side-on on the passenger side.

She suffered devastating head injuries, was rushed to Cork University Hospital, but never regained consciousness. She was pronounced dead the next day.

Startled by the findings that her daughter’s car was defective, Ms Murphy asked the NCTS for the results of the car’s NCT which was conducted six months earlier. It has refused to release the results because Amanda was not the registered owner of the car.

Ms Murphy asked the man who sold the car to Amanda to request the results from the NCTS.

He agreed, but the NCTS wrote back denying him access too, because it said the vehicle registration unit in Shannon shows he was not the registered owner of the car at the time of the test either.

Even though he sold the car to Amanda, he insists he cannot remember the identify of the car’s registered owner at the time of the NCT.

A spokesperson for the NCTS said data protection laws prevent the release of such test results to anyone other than the registered owner.

“NCTS are very sympathetic to this customer’s situation,” the spokesperson said.

“I am sure you can appreciate that NCTS are precluded from providing any information to any individual other than to the registered owner of the vehicle at the time at the test.”

In a statement, the NCTS said it operates a code of conduct which reflects best international practice.

“The code of conduct provides that NCT reports are only made available to the registered owner of the individual vehicle at the date of the test,” it said.

“The reports are not made available to subsequent registered owners of the vehicle.

“NCT have no way of verifying the date of sale in individual transactions however, we can independently verify by way of the Vehicle Registration Unit the date that the official ownership of the vehicle passed into the new registered owners details.

“If the registered owner at the time makes an application to the customer service department of NCTS requesting a copy of the NCT report then this will be released to them in the usual manner.”

The company said both it, and the National Consumer Agency, actively encourage customers who are buying a second hand car to ensure that they request a copy of the NCT test report and the NCT certificate from the owner before they make the purchase.

But Ms Murphy said she believes the NCTS could redact the name and address of the car’s registered owner when it underwent the NCT test, and release the data to her.

After the inquest, Ms Murphy asked Mr Cotter to inspect Amanda’s vehicle.

He said his findings are consistent with those of the garda expert — her car should never have been on the road.

“The condition of this car was the main reason it went out of control,” he said.

“The defect was sufficient for the back of the car to ‘step out’, especially during cornering. The suspension had been seized for some time. In fact it was virtually non-existent.

“Amanda’s mileage wasn’t big and it’s my belief that the suspension couldn’t have deteriorated to that extent in the six months she had it.”

He has compiled a detailed report but can’t complete it until he compares his findings with the NCT results — with special focus on the suspension test results.

He described as “spurious” the NCTS data protection argument as grounds for refusing to release the report.

He said 99% of the information on the report sheet is technical data, and that it could be released if sensitive information such as another person’s name and address was deleted or redacted.

“When Amanda bought this car, it’s my view that she acquired the history of it as well, and her mother, as next-of-kin, should be entitled to it,” he said.”

Ms Murphy has gone through all the official channels, and is getting nowhere. I am amazed at her resolve.”

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