x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Shut down illegal car-hire companies

Car rental companies are hiring out cars that do not have registration or insurance. A company should be closed down for the first offence.

Bryn Roberts did not know the registration of the car he had rented had expired more than a year earlier until he was pulled over by police. He also found out that the car was uninsured. But instead of punishing the car rental company, police fined Mr Roberts for an infraction.

Despite the fine, and the police impounding the car, the situation could have been much worse. In case of accidents, drivers could be liable for personal injury claims without any insurance cover through no fault of their own. Those kinds of claims can run into the millions of dirhams.

As The National reported yesterday, police have warned that some car rental companies are operating vehicles with expired registration or lacking insurance. And if companies are failing to register cars, it also raises issues about basic maintenance and safety.

At present, police confiscate the cars when they are found. But unfortunately, this is not a new issue and it persists in the absence of stronger enforcement. The prevalence of car-hire companies failing to pay registration fees was recognised as a problem in 2008 when the police launched a campaign to curb the practice. At the time, Dubai police said companies were not renewing registration to avoid paying outstanding fines, an estimated Dh70 million in unpaid fees.

Yet the practice is still common today. Dubai's traffic department is working to ensure companies do not get a trade licence without a recommendation letter from police, which would not be issued if there was record of such infractions.

Motorists, it must be said, sometimes share part of the blame. It is not hard to find out if the rented car is registered or insured. But in some cases, the company shows a bogus copy of the registration and says there is third-party insurance. Most customers will take that on good faith.

It is illegal to drive a car that isn't registered and lacks insurance - the companies that rent these cars out are complicit in a crime with each car they rent. More to the point, they make liable drivers who incorrectly believe they are insured. The current policy of fining motorists is not the way to deter these practices. A company that rents a car without registration or insurance should be shut down permanently.