Over the past few weeks GoMotorTrade has been providing updates on the abolishment of the tax disc, and this Wednesday the change officially went live. However, much like the rest of the government’s new scheme, the changeover did not go without a hitch as the DVLA website crashed due to the amount of users trying to buy tax online. Both motorists and motor traders have complained that in the run up to the tax disc abolishment the DVLA failed to supply enough information, which means it is no surprise that there was a surge of visitors to the website on October 1st.
According to reports, the DVLA website was down for a number of hours meaning that thousands of people were unable to tax their vehicles. Instead, users saw a message on the site stating: “We are currently experiencing high volumes of traffic to our online vehicle tax service please keep trying. Sorry for the inconvenience.” A spokesperson from the DVLA added: “More than 270,000 people successfully used our online car tax service yesterday – that’s 30,000 more than on the same day last year. We are currently experiencing unprecedented demand which means that some customers may be experiencing slow response times or having difficulty accessing the service.”
“We are of course very sorry for any inconvenience and we are urgently investigating to improve service quality for the minority of our customers that are experiencing issues. We can confirm that the unprecedented demand for car tax online temporarily affected the services provided by Vodafone to DVLA. Vodafone’s engineers worked hard with us to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and the service has now been restored.
“Vodafone will continue to monitor the service closely and will be carrying out a full investigation into the issue. The system has not crashed – it’s just slow at the moment. We are advising people to keep trying.” Following the failure to provide adequate services to the public there has been a large amount of anger targeted at the DVLA from both individuals and those that work in the motor trade industry.
For example, the President of the AA, Edmund King, said: “We’ve had a number of our members coming on to us say that the DVLA car-tax site has crashed. It’s a bit ironic in this digital age that the site goes down on the first day of the electronic system coming into being. I think that not only a lot of people have tried to get on to the site to renew their car tax but also a number have tried to access the site to find out how the changes to the car tax system affect them.”
Meanwhile, Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Despite months of warning, Ministers have failed to prepare properly for today’s digital switch. Websites and phone lines have been overwhelmed, leaving motorists unable to renew their car tax. Ministers need to get a grip and ensure these new online services work for the public.” Others have questioned why the DVLA did not put measures in place to deal with the increase in traffic which many claim they must have expected.
Deri Jones, CEO of website performance monitoring company Scivisum, said: “It’s true to say that nobody could have predicted the volume of traffic on the website, there’s always an element of guesswork involved with something new like this. But with today’s elastic cloud technology there’s really no excuse. With a well-designed site it’s possible to scale up a website as and when you need it, even for short periods of time.”
To make matters worse recent reports have claimed that the DVLA has pocketed £3.3 million from the change due to a surcharge paid by drivers who renewed their road tax last month. These drivers missed out on the ability to pay for their road tax by Direct Debit and therefore receive a five per cent instead of a ten per cent surcharge. The RAC has also sparked fears that the new system could lose the government up to £167 million a year in unpaid road tax, and that the amount of people who drive without tax will rise to the same amount that drive without car or motor trade insurance.
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