Private Number Plates – Are Yours Legal?

Some owners of private number plates have been known to alter the legal display of their registrations. It used to be seen as a cheeky change which could result in a telling off if you got caught. The law relating to the correct display of registrations on number plates has become much tighter and is now actively enforced. As a result you risk having your registration confiscated if you fail to play by the rules.

What exactly are we talking about when we refer to altering your private number plates?

It could be the use of a different character font, placing a screw or bolt in a place where it should not be or making the letters and numbers smaller. Reputable cherished number plate dealers will always depict a registration in their adverts exactly as it should be displayed on a car to stay on the correct side of the law. In our opinion it is unfair to trick a customer into buying a personalised registration if it has to be altered in order to achieve the desired look.

examples of illegal number plates

As well as cracking down on motorists who flout the law by displaying illegal number plates, the rules have become much stricter for the manufacturers and retailers of the actual plastic plates. There is now a Register of Number Plate Suppliers which is managed by the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). If you buy your number plates from someone who is not included on the DVLA Register, you run the risk of being fined as your number plates may not be legal.

The DVLA is taking the subject very seriously and is carefully monitoring all companies who are included on the Register of Number Plate Suppliers. Retailers are required to check vehicle documents and personal identification before issuing number plates to their clients. Accurate records have to be kept up to date or the retailer faces losing their authority to make up registration plates which would result in loss of revenue.

You may think one way to get around the rules is to not bother applying to be on the Register at all?

Even that will not stop you being prosecuted; in fact it is likely to land you in even more trouble. One company selling illegal number plates online received a huge fine recently after being successfully prosecuted following an investigation by Trading Standards officials. This particular company was selling private number plates with mis-spaced characters whilst also committing several other offences. It resulted in the company being fined more than sixty thousand pounds.

So what exactly is the problem with private number plates that are displayed illegally?

There are several issues, the first being in relation to the increased number of safety cameras in use on the roads of Great Britain. These cameras use a system called automatic number plate recognition technology (ANPR) which means the cameras can effectively ‘read’ a vehicle number plate. If the number plate has been adjusted in any way it may stop the camera correctly reading the registration mark.

illegal number plate activity

Another issue related to number plates concerns the rising trend of motorists taking fuel and not paying for it. Fuel thieves are sometimes buying false number plates from non-registered online suppliers, or stealing number plates from cars and then fitting them to their own cars before driving onto a petrol forecourt and making off without paying. The cameras are able to read the number plates but that does not necessarily mean that the registration caught on camera is the correct one to be associated with the offending vehicle.

If you were tempted to change the display of your private number plates before reading this article, hopefully you are now less inclined having understood the implications. Expect a fixed-penalty fine of £60 if you are caught. If you continue to ignore the rules and don’t correctly display your private number plates you may have your registration confiscated. It is no longer a case of a slap on the wrist for the naughty motorist. The matter is being taken very seriously by the police, the DVLA and even MOT testing stations. Always make sure your private number plates are legal and try to stay on the correct side of the law.