UK petrol station CCTVs will check insurance/tax status before you are allowed to fill up

Under a pending proposal, the license-plate cameras at UK filling stations will soon begin to trigger automatic lookups of every motorist's insurance and tax records. Drivers whose insurance and tax records can't be located or verified will not be allowed to fill their tanks. This requires that the existing cameras, which are there to document drivers who don't pay for their gas, be connected to sensitive government databases filled with identifying personal information. Forensic cameras -- whose records are used after the fact to catch crooks -- don't need to be 100 percent accurate, since almost every plate they capture will not be involved in a crime, and ambiguous results can be resolved by a human backstop. But cameras that prevent you from getting something you need, like petrol, need to be 100 percent accurate, since it wouldn't do to let the person operating the cash-register override the judgment of the automated system.

CCTV at petrol stations will automatically stop uninsured cars being filled with fuel (Thanks, VoxAudi!)


  1. What happens if you turn up with a spare petrol can and no car I wonder? Presumably, you’ll be able to fill that up.

    “Downing Street officials are due to meet representatives from the major fuel companies in the next few weeks to discuss the idea.”So at this stage, it’s just someone floating an idea.

      1. Likewise, Big Brother’s watchful eyes won’t be able to figure out foreign autos. I’d assume there are still some Europeans who take the train or ferry to Knifecrime Island with their cars.

          1. Even if they did that, they’d still need access to the foreign country’s database, and I can tell you right now that the rest of Europe is gonna scream bloody murder at this.

          2.  Let me clarify: you’d only need access to the foreign countries databases if this system actually was intended to be used as it is claimed to be. Which it isn’t. This is about finding and tracking all vehicles.

  2. So, a little damage to a network cable and nobody can fuel up. Right, I can see pranksters never, ever considering snipping a cable. Or any number of other failure modes.

    1. Don’t worry, there will be cameras installed to monitor the cables. And cameras installed to monitor the cameras monitoring those.

    2. Good point ! But you see, the first camera would then be monitored by a second camera in case of vandalism…

    3. If these pranksters were so keen on preventing anyone from refueling their cars, they could already snip a single cable to achieve exactly the same effect — The power cable.

      1. O ye of little imagination.  That’s a one-off act of assholery with a high risk-to-reward ratio. Buggering up the system for all, then waiting for the tweets to come in: that’s high-jinks and protest all in one.

  3. It’s okay, just fit the copy of your law abiding neighbours index number registration plate to your vehicle before every fill up. 
    The system in in place to try and stop number plates being made (in high street auto stores) without owner documents being presented…..but it’s a major fail system.

  4. I’m just glad that my uncle has a country place, that no one knows about… he says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law.

    1. I don’t suppose he’s been preserving a machine for you for the last 50 odd years? Keeping it as new having been his biggest dream?
      Just perhaps?

      1. Even without a car you will probably still be able to get where you’re going by hopping one of those new fangled turbine freight systems. I imagine some criminals might do this on a weekly basis. 

        1. I prefer the new alloy air-cars myself, although they have trouble crossing those narrow bridges.

          1.  Sure, those gleaming alloys look good, but there’s no tires spitting gravel and I’m a old school fan of the hot metal and oil blending in with the scented country air. The landscape seems to blur when I have contact with the ground.

  5. And of course the customers will be completely civil to the employee sitting inside the store.  It has nothing to do with them, but as the easy to see “cog” in the machine they will be the happy recipients of these angry peoples polite expression of anger.

  6. Please note that there is only one fuel station in the uk that sells gas (hydrogen). Or by gas do you mean LPG?

    I’m sure you can’t mean “petrol” when you use the word “gas”. That would be fairly ridiculous and quite confusing considering most petrol stations sell petrol, LPG, butane gas and in future hydrogen as well as compressed air (gas) for tyres.

    1.  petrol(eum) = crude oil

      gas(oline) = internal combustion engine fuel

      You pedantic wankers feel free to put whatever you want in the tank and ruin your engine. Sheesh…

      1. And yet, strangely, what pedantic wankers put in their tanks works just as well as what ‘s used by an – um – informal … what’s the opposite of wanker?

        1. Fucking Yank in this case, I think. Besides this all seems to miss the point. It is not the accuracy of the system which is at fault but the wankers who are proposing it.

          1. This pedantic tragedy could had been avoided if the original post had allowed the possibility of cars being fueled with diesel fuel as well as the other variously named distillate (gasoline, petrol). 

      2. I think that ‘fuel’ does the job nicely.

        Incidentally ‘Petrol’ isn’t a shortened form of petroleum, it’s a word in its own right.  Gasoline/Petrol. Linguistically derived from petroleum, I’m sure, but not interchangeable.

        “Gasoline  /ˈɡæsəliːn/, or petrol  /ˈpɛtrəl/, is a transparent petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines.”

        So to continue the pedantry, ‘Petrol’ or ‘Gasoline’ are fine, but ‘Gas’ is misleading, especially in these modern times when there are actual gasses used to fuel cars.

        1.  If you find “gas” misleading, do you struggle with any other UK-vs-North-American English differences?

  7. I work in the UK insurance industry – as a group, we’re not too chuffed about this idea. At the moment there can be up to seven days delay between when you buy your insurance (which is nevertheless valid from the moment you call, if you so choose) and when your records are updated in the Motor Insurance Database. There’s a similar delay between when an incorrect record is found (and every database has some incorrect records) and when the amendment goes through.

    Improving this turnaround, which we’d have to do in order for this to work, would be extremely costly. Without such improvements, the system simply won’t work for this purpose.

    The tax half should be fine though I guess?

    1. I think it would be pretty handy if you *did* improve the turnaround, since it takes so long after insuring for the database to update and let me buy a tax disc.  Quite often I’ve got the paper insurance documents through before the DVLA can see that my insurance is valid and thus let me buy a tax disc online.

      The DVLA database updates in about ten minutes…

      1.  Would I be right in assuming it’s difficult for you to get to a post office with the paper documents? Or do you just have a rational and completely justified hate for the post office?

        As that would of course be a solution to your dilemma.

        If you have to drive to your nearest post office this does of course bring us back to the original problem.

        1. I may be entirely wrong here, but I was under the impression that it was perfectly legal to drive to the post office to buy your car tax, even if your vehicle was not currently taxed. 

          Presumably not any longer.

    2. Maybe the insurance companies should do more to reduce premiums and act to minimise the cost of claims without the threat of legislation to cajole them. What percentage of non-payers are hard cases and what percentage are waiting until they can afford to pay?

  8. Surely this falls foul of data protection laws? I haven’t given the petrol station any rights to look up my car tax or insurance status

      1.  Actually, there were some people around 200 years ago who cared. They started their own country. It hasn’t been a complete success, but they’ve been trying.

    1. In which case the privacy policy (that will have a clause allowing changes at any time) you agree to when you take out the insurance policy will be updated post-haste.

      But in all reality it will contain a whole swathe of clauses that allow sharing your data with third parties, as they’ll already sell it and share it with the police.

  9. Will this mean that foreigners will have to bring enough foreign petrol for their entire stay? Or will foreign cars be banned completely? Or maybe you have to wait half an hour for all sorts of foreign databases to be checked, before you can fill up?

    1. I was wondering that too, a lot of french people from the coast cross the channel to fill up in the UK (it’s the main reason for congestion in the tunnel actually)

          1. Even so, it’s quite a bit more expensive to cross that border than the one between for example Netherland and Germany, or Belgium and Luxembourg. Making a boat trip just to get petrol seems somewhat excessive.

            But there are other reasons why someone might go to the UK. Vacation, for example. Business even. But apparently the UK plans to put an end to that.

          2. In reply to MCV, whose post is not granted a ‘reply’ button:

            I don’t know if this is still the case, but the channel ferry companies used to offer extremely cheap day return tickets, which made food shopping in France an affordable (if lengthy) procedure for those who lived close to a port.

            Similarly, the electrical retailers in coastal England would routinely be full of French people on a weekend, presumably because savings could be made this way.

          3. @facebook-100000059681060:disqus  I think the implication was that people were crossing over to the UK simply to fill up their fuel tank, which clearly is ridiculous unless the price difference is utterly outrageous, which I doubt.

            Being from a border town myself, though (US/Canada border) I know that depending on exchange rates at the time it can make a lot of sense to cross the border to buy things like expensive electronics and even upscale clothing and fancy food – if you combine everything into one trip.

            We used to go to Canada to buy things, but now the Canadians all come here because the US dollar’s value has dropped and theirs has strengthened.

        1. yeah, that was total bullshit, I thought insinuating that people would actually cross the channel just to fill up was mental enough to mark it as a joke… :)

  10. To put it in context, to get your annual “Road Tax” (Vehicle excise duty) you have to demonstrate that you have valid insurance, and that gives you a “tax disk” you could present to the cashier as evidence you’re OK. So it might work; as others say, foreign cars will be a problem.

    There are lots of uninsured drivers in the UK, and it pushes everyone else’s insurance up to ridiculous levels. I’m not against the concept, but the devil is in the details.

    1. [Comment removed in protest of BB’s arbitrary deletion of fellow commenters’ comments that do not violate any posted policies. This makes it impossible to discuss anything.]

        1. [Comment removed in protest of BB’s arbitrary deletion of fellow commenters’ comments that do not violate any posted policies. This makes it impossible to discuss anything.]

      1. One in twenty-five? That’s a huge proportion. Why did I feel so guilty when I was a few days late in renewing my insurance recently?

      2. That’s a small percentage, sure, but a lot of people…

        A quick Google indicates somewhere around 30 million cars on the road in the UK, so roughly 1,320,000 cars are uninsured. If anything that’s worse than I expected.

    2. Not really.

      1) Buy some insurance
      2) Pay your VED online
      3) Cancel the insurance for a full refund during the cooling off period
      4) Be uninsured but in possession of a valid tax disc.

      You could also probably declare that the tax disc was lost or destroyed and get a refund on it while keeping the seemingly-valid original, too, but I don’t know what the process for that is.

      If the disc was enough they wouldn’t have needed the Motor Insurance Database in the first place.

    3. “It pushes up everyone else’s insurance up to ridiculous levels”

      While uninsured drivers do inflate the overall cost of insurance for the rest, the average burden per policy is around 30 pounds, so can hardly be blamed for the arguably ridiculous prices we pay for insurance.

      1.  I had to pay an extra £40 just because a car I owned had non-standard wheel rims.  I never understood that; it’s not like they were swanky spinners or anything, they just weren’t the ones that came with the car (if anything likely less valuable).

        I suppose what I’m saying is that all these little things add up.

  11. There’s nothing confirming that this will happen because it’s just an idea they’re floating and getting some people in to talk about. It’s very unlikely to happen if only because of the technical hurdles. But that doesn’t make it any less worrying a prospect.

    1. [Comment removed in protest of BB’s arbitrary deletion of fellow commenters’ comments that do not violate any posted policies. This makes it impossible to discuss anything.]

    1. What, enforcing laws against dangerous uninsured drivers in unroadworthy vehicles?

      If you allow uninsured drivers to run around in scrapyard cars in the US, I’m glad I don’t live there…

      1. [Comment removed in protest of BB’s arbitrary deletion of fellow commenters’ comments that do not violate any posted policies. This makes it impossible to discuss anything.]

      2. So, you are ok with this, as it is simply enforcing laws? How about we install a camera in your living room or bedroom to be sure you aren’t doing anything illegal in either of those places? 

        1.  Because my bedroom is a private place.  A petrol station is not a private place.

          I’m surprised you can’t tell the difference.  Do you think it would be okay to have sex on a petrol station forecourt?

          1. It happens….and I’m willing to bet that is the real reason they want cameras at gas stations.

        2. Dude, my bedroom doesn’t go from 0 to 60 in 15 seconds. My bedroom has yet to run anyone ever even when I was completely hammered.

          1. …and yet the cameras are apparently not intended to monitor your blood alcohol content. I think your point is irrelevant in this discussion.

          2. You can’t be too careful though. I once left my keys in my bedroom. When I got back, somebody’d driven off in it. The police found it trashed with an empty tank.

    2. I think you’ll find that was “taxation without representation”.

      Or was it “freedom to grope or view naked everyone going in or out of the country”? I forget.

      1.  …or “torture your own and foreign nationals”, or “have secret trials with prior undetermined detainment” or “freedom to kill everyone with a drone strike” – the list is endless.

        I know its a matter of habit for USians to criticize everyone for their lack of freedoms but after 9/11 and Sopa, Patriot Act, NDAA it’s just tiring hypocrisy

        1. um…SOPA died before it became a law and 9/11 was not directly carried out by the US government (despite what you may have heard on youtube.) Not sure how either belong on your list. I’m not debating your other points, though; there are times when my country’s government makes me very upset.

          1. I think a comma was meant after ‘9/11’ instead of an and; as that was the precursor to you losing all your freedoms and certainly not an example of it :)

            The US only gets a hard time as your tagline is ‘Land of the Free’, it’s just too ironic not to point out regularly.

        2. As an American I can assure you that I take no pleasure in seeing Britons having their privacy invaded. If anything I have sympathy for people worldwide who are being oppressed by their governments. I have sympathy for people who are being oppressed by my government.

          Honestly, do you really wish to make this a discussion about who’s government is worse or would you rather reach out to people worldwide who are fighting the same sorts of creeping authoritarianism?

          Which seems the greater threat: that Americans are hypocrites or that both of our governments seem determined to monitor and control every aspect of our lives?

          (EDIT) Having read up to the top of the thread, I see that it is bolamig, and not ffabian who first brought up the whole US vs UK nonsense. Sentiments of non-hostility to all.

  12. They’ve had these cameras on motorways for many years now. About five years ago, if I remember correctly, our friend was driving my partner and me from England back to Scotland, where my partner had a flight to catch. It turned out that the friend’s car insurance company had inexplicably messed up their records and started sending correspondence to the wrong address, and the policy had ended up cancelled without them being notified. The first they found out about it was when we were stopped by the police on the motorway and told that the car was uninsured. As I understand it, if my partner didn’t have proof she had a flight to catch, they’d have impounded the car there and then and left the four of us and two dogs stranded in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure how they resolved it instead, but I think our friend had to call the insurance company from the police car and get them to fix it before we could go.

    1.  The police will only impound the car if you don’t get it insured right then and there.  I’ve actually been in a situation where the insurance company insured a friend of mine on the wrong car, so the one I’d lent him didn’t have insurance for him and the one I was using did.  It took about two months to sort out, but the police weren’t especially bothered once I explained the situation to them.

      1.  ” The police will only impound the car if you don’t get it insured right then and there.”

        I’ve watched enough late-night police ‘documentaries’ to confirm this statement.  The only reason they impound it is because it’s not insured, so if you insure it there and then they’re in no position to take the vehicle, unless they have other reasons to detain you of course.

  13. It is almost embarrassing to be a Brit when people seem to be begging for these cameras just to save a few quid. It will not stop twocking in the least which is probably where the real potential for physical danger to others lies. Twockers do it for the buzz and lack of inhibition – something diametrically opposed to the control freakery of the state and ‘bourgeois’ angst. Which is cause and effect here, I wonder, and which ultimately is the greater threat to all our well-being?

  14. So on the other hand invasion of privacy/civil liberties, on the other a surefire way to catch drivers who have not fulfilled all the requirements of legal motoring. The devil is in the details (Will it work reliably? Is it tamper-proof? Are there cases where a legal motorist can be interfered with?). The argument against CCTVs, besides the expense and lack of effectiveness, is the “always on” capability, that there is no probable cause required. But what would be the difference if a real police officer was surveilling the location? 

    I wouldn’t be all that bothered if the movement/location of cars was logged to monitor usage volumes, if it was sufficiently anonymized. We have no right of privacy in the public street. If we want to move about by car, an exercise that requires enforcement and investment, keeping track of usage seems reasonable. The tension between libertarianism (toll roads and fee for service/usage instead of taxes) and civil liberties could be interesting.

    Drivers sometimes act like their privileges (driving is not a right, after all) are hopelessly encumbered but anyone who has a car stolen soon learns that driving actually pretty loosely regulated. Once your car is gone, you’re relying on eyewitnesses and luck to find it again. You may have paid some fees for the privilege of being cited for infractions but you won’t get much help recovering a stolen vehicle. When you consider how car theft is used to fund other crimes, preventing it should be a higher priority. And the ability to track vehicles, either as they move around or when they are fueled, seems like a useful tool. Any place with the density to make this workable probably has other transportation options, so it’s not like everyone will be forced into being tracked. 

    I once lived in a large Southern city with a conflicted attitude about race: on the one hand it wanted to be economically progressive but there was plenty of unreconstructed racism to block that. When a large expansion of the transit was proposed, one that would reach out to the mostly-white suburbs, we heard a lot of code worded opposition about how transit systems lead to crime. But when was the last time a burglar was apprehended at the bus stop or someone was seen on a train with a pillowcase full of swag? Seems to me cars are a bigger risk…

    Some cities are adopting RFID tolling systems. Do we know if they are just logging tolls? Or could they, through the use of two data points, be collecting speed data as well? On the notion of taxes for road use, I would like to see point of sale taxes of fuel tied to the curb weight/axle weight for all vehicles, just as commercial trucks use. Why should someone who buys a lightweight fuel-efficient car be required to pay as much wear and tear as someone in glorified pickup truck/SUV?

    1. Car thieves who have no intention of returning your car will simply avoid detection by using other means to refuel. Joyriders couldn’t give a fuck.

  15. Several months ago, my government’s tax agency(the CRA) sent me a letter saying that rent paid to my mother was not claimable on my taxes (I think that I would normally get to claim rent because of my age or something, there’s a line on the form for it at any rate) because she received a child tax benefit (I claimed it at her suggestion since, ya’know, I still paid the rent, the money still left my bank account and still made it harder to save for college. Why would everyone else my age get to claim rent and I don’t? Then again, I just found out Rez fees don’t count as “rent”, even though its still a lot of money that I pay to live somewhere except instead of paying monthly I paid up front for 8 months)and that I therefore owe a bunch of money(which I apparently owe interest on now too), I did not receive this letter because it was sent to the wrong address(according to the lady on the phone) and didn’t find out about it until a few weeks ago while speaking to the CRA about an unrelated question. So if this law were in place I might have been stuck beside some rundown gas  (here in Canada we don’t call them “petrol” stations) station in the middle of nowhere (Ontario’s a big place) because oh look you didn’t pay that money you owe the government, sure we didn’t send the letter to the right address but you’re fucked anyways. Just theory since I don’t have a car, but I have been nearly stranded in the middle of nowhere before.

  16. I can tell the people who have been proposing these laws [the ‘papers please’ laws in the US, identity cards in the UK, ‘Verisign’ and so on] never have to live with bad documentation or with costs and catch-22 requirements making it impossible to get valid documentation. [And no, I don’t drive]

    Some people don’t have birth certificates. Some people have errors on their birth certificates which cannot be corrected. Some states require identification cards to accurately describe someone, and to match all the other documentation… I understand the UK is saner in this regard, but in parts of the US it’s impossible for trans people to get completely valid state-level identification.

    1. My surname gets occasionally recorded as the more common variant even though they sound distinct. I can see myself getting in a Buttle/Tuttle situation with the authorities one of these days.

  17. Its not an altogether crazy proposal, although I agree that it needs a way to make it unlikely to catch the innocents. Crashing with an uninsured driver is a problem in the UK. What I like about the proposal is the possibility of ‘mission creep’; we have a database that shows the usage of petrol per car in the country, the journeys made by each car. Suppose we want to prevent protesters travelling by car during certain times? Simple. We blacklist their vehicles from refueling. We have a more complete database on the movements of our citizens. We need to make it a crime to supply petrol to an uninsured individual first, or the scheme will only be optional.

    1. “it needs a way to make it unlikely to catch the innocents”
      Sorry, but that’s way too far of a low bar to aim for: the justice system aims to ensure that “catching” the innocent is impossible, even if that means occasionally letting the guilty go — and even that system manages to get it wrong reliably.

      “We need to make it a crime to supply petrol to an uninsured individual first”
      Yes, and no condoms for would be rapists! No food for hunger strikers! Damn it, lets just kill everyone off and we’ll have no more crime evah!

  18. I guess my earlier comment was too OT or inflammatory.

    So I’ll just leave with this sound effect: *chip*  *chip*  *chip*  *chip* 

  19. (supposed to be in the chain with all the ‘Red Barchetta’ refs – Doh!)

    You all just need to chill for a while and dream with your uncles by the fireside.

  20. Of course, it is completely legal to drive an untaxed car in certain situations- driving to a prebooked MOT (inspection that your car needs to pass in order to be road-legal, you can’t get a tax disc without it) or driving from a failed MOT to a place where the car can be repaired. Currently, if you’re stopped by police while doing this you can just explain- which may require showing proof of the booking or phoning the inspection station- and they’ll send you on your way. If you run out of fuel while on one of these legal untaxed journeys, you’re in trouble if the petrol stations refuse to sell you petrol.

    Not to mention the case of cars on trade policies (an insurance policy a car dealer has which insures all the cars they have in stock so they can be moved around or test-driven), which don’t show up on the insurance database because the policy doesn’t cover specific cars but are insured.

    1. Another situation might the one popular with film makers, where you often get a police escort chucked in as well. I speak of the ‘rushing the birthing female to the hospital’ case. You might not even need a driving license for that.

  21. Not sure if this proposal, if made into an actual law, would hold up in front of EU courts and EU regulation… Whether the Brits like it or not, they’re still part of a club, which means they have to play by the rules. Which they usually don’t, but hey, “die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt”, as we Germans say (“hope is the last thing to die”.)

    1.  I think you will find the Government of the day don’t like playing by the rules, we, the people, have a long history of overturning Government policy at the European Courts.  Euro-scepticism is mostly the preserve of the old, bigoted or Tory – The rest of us rejoice in the opportunities it gives.

      1. I *do* believe you are (partially) correct. I have met a few *actual people* from the UK, most of them really nice people, and most of them were, in fact, pro EU. On the other hand, enough people in the UK voted for these guys to put them in office, and from the other side of the channel at least it looks like their Europe skepticism played a part in that. Although I guess the left in the UK have similar problems to the left in Germany, as in not having the right people and p***ing off their base, which of course makes it easier for the other guys to win elections.

  22. I think it’s a good idea in theory to stop the plague of uninsured drivers.

    But… not every petrol station has decent cameras, and to wire up all stations is logistically going to be very hard.

    So scammers will just find some crummy local station that isn’t connected.

  23. in Canada they plan to merge healthcare cards with drivers licences .  Now unpaid traffic fines will mean no healthcare.

  24. If you like this type of stuff, you’ll love when your travels exceed your carbon footprint. 

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