You can buy short-term car insurance for many reasons. These include borrowing a friend’s car for a vacation or buying a car at an auction. However, insuring a vehicle is only one requirement before it can be driven on public roads. It also needs to be taxed. The registered keeper of a car can’t tax it unless they are insured to drive it. In the past, this meant that the owner had to pay for full year’s insurance, even if the intended use was to only drive the vehicle for a few days. It’s not surprising that so many people take the chance of driving a car with no insurance or tax, hoping that luck would allow them to avoid being caught.
A few years back, short-term car insurance policies were easily available online. Previously they were difficult to obtain and costly. Because setting up a policy for a 12 month period took twice as long and required more administration time than a policy for 12 months, it was just as expensive. Thanks to automation and the increasing popularity of purchasing insurance online, policies can be purchased in a matter of minutes and for periods as short as one day. The documentation can also be downloaded and printed on the buyer’s printer immediately after purchase. It was difficult to convince the post office staff to accept a downloaded document as proof of vehicle insurance. This was because the rules clearly stated that only original documents could be produced and that copies would not accepted.
This caused many disputes. Sometimes, it escalated to abuse and even assault of post offices staff who were simply trying to do their jobs well. Many people correctly pointed out that the law only required them have insurance coverage for the car on or before the due date. To support this argument, documentation had to be presented. Although it was frequently argued that a downloaded document was original and not a duplicate, the majority of counterstaff refused to accept them.
Insurance companies applauded the decision. They felt that too many people were using short-term insurance to be able tax their cars. After which, they would have to take the risk of driving while uninsured. Some insurance companies took a different approach and offered to send a proper, hologrammed coverage note for a small fee.
Now, the department of transport has reexamined this issue and has decided that download insurance certificates are acceptable. However, the rules remain vague as a downloaded certificate of insurance is accepted but not a copy. This is a classic example of bureaucratic doublespeak. Some people feel this is a retrograde move and that many of these certificates will be forged. Only time will show if their pessimism was justified.