Improvements needed to reduce complaints about VicRoads: Ombudsman

 
Wednesday 20 February 2019
 
Victorians lodged more than 800 complaints about VicRoads with the Victorian Ombudsman last financial year, with many of the issues having serious financial, practical and emotional consequences for those involved.
 
Tabling her report on VicRoads complaints in the Victorian Parliament today, Ombudsman Deborah Glass said there were common themes to the complaints, including:
  • The transfer of registration process: In some cases, VicRoads transfers registration from a ‘seller’ to a buyer even if it has only part of the information needed to properly identify both parties to the transfer. This can result in people having vehicles transferred out of their name without their knowledge or consent, enabling fraud and theft.
  • People incurring fines and demerit points for driving unregistered vehicles, after their renewal notice was sent to a wrong address even though they had updated their address with VicRoads.
  • VicRoads taking months to refund people for cancelled registrations or overpaid fees.
  • Unfair exercise of discretion.  
 
“VicRoads can sometimes be quick to charge but slow to refund, leading to financial hardship,” Ms Glass said. “In one case, a woman was mistakenly charged more than $1,300 extra for her registration renewal and was still waiting for repayment when she contacted my office three months later.”
 
Ms Glass said VicRoads had accepted all of her proposals for improvement.
 
“I am pleased that VicRoads acknowledges improvements are needed and has worked with us to resolve many of these complaints,” Ms Glass said. “But given the number of people affected by these issues, and the human cost of VicRoads’ shortcomings, we have encouraged them to look for interim solutions as well as long-term ones. Some of these issues will not be fixed properly without major investment in systems, which will take time and money.”
 
Some of the interim solutions include: staff escalating applications for transfer or registration where signatures were missing or where details did not match the Register of motor vehicles; providing guidance for staff on when to exercise discretion; and prioritising the payment of refunds when VicRoads has made a mistake.
 
Read the report here: VicRoads complaints
 
Media contact: Ainslie Gowan | Tel 03 9613 6235 | Mob 0409 936 235 |  ainslie.gowan@ombudsman.vic.gov.au
 
Case study 1
A community legal centre contacted the Ombudsman on behalf of its clients, Joe* and May*. May lent her vehicle to Joe who left it in his friend’s garage while he went overseas. Another person took the vehicle without Joe’s or May’s knowledge and gave it to her friend Michael* who sold it to someone else.
 
Michael submitted two forms to VicRoads – one transferring registration from Joe to him, and one transferring registration from him to the buyer. VicRoads processed both transfers on the same day, despite its records showing May was the owner and her not having signed the required notice of disposal. The Ombudsman suggested VicRoads offer payment towards the costs May and Joe had incurred, which VicRoads agreed to do.
 
Case study 2
VicRoads mistakenly changed the address for all three of Naomi’s* vehicles, instead of just the one she requested. She did not receive her registration renewal notices because they were sent to the wrong address. A few months later, the police fined Naomi for driving an unregistered vehicle.
 
By making enquiries, the Ombudsman confirmed VicRoads had made a mistake in changing her address. VicRoads agreed to refund the cost of the permits Naomi had to purchase to re-register her three vehicles and requested Civic Compliance Victoria withdraw the fine.
 
Case study 3
Sally’s* driver licence had an alcohol interlock condition. When Sally had her car cleaned at a carwash, the device sounded and two violations were recorded as she did not provide samples. The camera on the device recorded a worker cleaning the car and a plastic cover over the driver’s seat.
 
After Sally got back in the car the device sounded again and she provided a clean sample.
VicRoads initally refused to withdraw the violations on the basis that it was unclear who was in possession of the vehicle when the device sounded. After the Ombudsman made enquiries, they agreed to withdraw them.
 
*Names have been changed.