Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I move amendment No. 1:
In page 16, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:
“Interference with odometer of mechanically propelled vehicle
14. (1) A person shall not interfere or attempt to interfere with the odometer of a mechanically propelled vehicle.
(2) A person who contravenes, or who procures another person to contravene, subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a class C fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months, or to both.
(3) Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is committing or has committed an offence under this section he or she may arrest the person without warrant.
(4) Where a person is charged with an offence under this section it shall be a defence to show that at the time of the alleged offence the person was acting in good faith in order to test, repair or replace the odometer of the mechanically propelled vehicle.
(5) In this section “odometer”, in relation to a mechanically propelled vehicle, means the device that measures and records the distance travelled by the vehicle but does not include an auxiliary device capable of being reset to measure and record individual journeys.”.
I am proposing the introduction of a new section 14, which will for the first time make it an offence to tamper with an odometer. It will also address the amendment proposed by Deputy Anthony Lawlor which deals with the same issue. The law at present deals with clocking through the Consumer Protection Act 2007 where it is addressed as part of misleading commercial practices. I understand that the National Consumer Agency has been successful in taking prosecutions against car dealerships for selling or offering the sale of motor vehicles with altered odometer readings, that is, clocked cars. However, this law does not apply in the case of private sales. More to the point, the act of clocking a vehicle in itself is not an offence.
This issue has been raised with me on a number of occasions. It was the subject of a Private Members’ Bill in 2012 which was published by Deputy Lawlor. The substance of that Bill has been presented as an amendment by Deputy Lawlor. I thank the Deputy and all others who have raised this issue. I also acknowledge the support of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, who has given his agreement to this amendment from a consumer policy point of view.
Having considered the position, it is my view there is a gap in the law at present which I have sought to address in this amendment. The new section I am proposing will make it an offence to tamper with an odometer. The penalty for tampering with an odometer or procuring someone else to tamper with one will be three months and-or a class C fine which is a maximum of €2,500 on summary conviction. In his amendment, Deputy Lawlor is proposing significantly more severe penalties. I have discussed my own amendment in some detail with the Office of the Attorney General and I am satisfied that the penalty being proposed in my amendment is proportionate. The wording has been carefully drafted to ensure we do not penalise people who are legitimately accessing odometers – for example, while repairing a vehicle – and also to ensure we do not accidentally include trip counters in our definition of an odometer.
I acknowledge the work of Deputy Lawlor in this regard. At the same time, I believe it is important to get the wording right in legislation. Since the wording I am proposing has been approved by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, I ask the House to accept this amendment as proposed.
Deputy Anthony Lawlor: I thank the Minister for his remarks. In 2012, I spoke to him and his Department about this issue, which was brought to my attention by www.cartell.ie. The Minister was quite positive about the Private Members’ legislation I put forward and told me at the time that he was not opposing it. I am one of the lucky ones in that, as a result of the Minister’s amendment, one Private Members’ Bill can now be scratched off the list.
While consumer law may curtail the sale of clocked cars, it does not lessen the offence of clocking and the inherent dangers in that regard for the unsuspecting motorists who purchase such cars. Like Deputy Ellis, I would welcome if the Minister could clarify the situation in relation to the mileage-kilometres issue.
Given that what the Minister proposes to do by way of this amendment addresses the issue raised in my amendment No. 3, I propose to withdraw that amendment.