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Vehicle crash data clearing services are on the rise

Consumers in the UK are being advised to be wary of crash data clearing services, a type of ‘scam’ being carried out by operators that falsify if a car’s airbags have been deployed.

Data experts at HPI are warning that crash data clearing is on the rise and have identified numerous instances of the service being offered by online providers for as little as £30. 

It is the latest in a series of unscrupulous practices to affect the motor industry ranging from clocking, cloning and, more recently, the introduction of  ‘mileage blockers’,  a type of scam tool introduced by fraudsters that alters a car’s true mileage reading via smartphone technology.

Crash data clearing involves firms offering to bring life back to motorists’ locked airbag modules after the airbags have gone off, potentially saving hundreds of pounds just on airbag module repair alone.

Even when the airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners are replaced following an accident, the car’s airbag light will still flash; this is because the airbag module locks up, so they can’t redeploy.  Online service providers are encouraging drivers to send the airbag control module to them, which they reset and then return the next day as if nothing had happened to the vehicle. Airbag reset ready for the vehicle owner to plug back in.

As with other car scams under UK law, the practice itself is a grey area and not technically illegal. However,  it is illegal to sell that car without disclosing any known accident or recorded damage information to the buyer or falsifying its instrumentation data and withholding that from an unsuspecting potential buyer.

Experts at cap hpi have identified a growing number of companies online offering a crash data removal service and repairing airbag modules. Some of the UK businesses have been offering the service for over 20 years and deal with customers from as far afield as Russia, Indonesia and New Zealand.

Jon Clay, identification director at HPI, commented: “Once again when it comes to car scams, we have a situation where the law is very unclear. There can be legitimate reasons for resetting crash data on a vehicle if displays need to be reset once the airbags have been replaced. However, if crash data is reset, this makes it very difficult to pinpoint exactly why the airbags were deployed in the first instance, with the vehicle receiving significant damage or even being written off.  Withholding this information from a potential buyer is illegal and not only could it prove very costly financially, it could present a danger to driver and passenger safety. Not disclosing if a vehicle has been previously written off after repairing it is an attempt to cover up a potentially lethal situation.

The situation now exists where reputable dealers could potentially be liable for selling a car with false accident data after being unwittingly duped. At present, there is seemingly no way to prosecute the company or person who originally reset or wiped the car’s vital crash data in the first place. Something needs to be done to tighten up on this from a legal perspective so that unsuspecting motorists aren’t risking their lives and the lives of others when getting behind the wheel.”

cap hpi’s own data reveals that there is a one in three chance of uncovering another hidden problem with the car, such as any outstanding finance, previously written off or recorded stolen.

Checking a car for any discrepancies, such as accident data or mileage tampering comes as standard in the HPI Check. By building up a comprehensive history of the vehicle, cross-referenced with MOT records, any discrepancies are highlighted, arming car buyers with the information and confidence they need when looking to buy a  used car. 

Concludes Jon Clay: “Falsifying readings, especially with something as important as the airbags of a car, often lead to mechanical issues and faults later down the line, which could have safety implications or lead to significant repair bills. All the safety features and modules in a modern car, such as airbags, ABS and ignition, feed important information into the vehicle’s central computer system.” 

Clay adds: “Any anomalies with the information stored by the car’s systems will cause the accuracy of the data and all the safety readings to be out of sync with other records. This can make it potentially very dangerous for the driver, passenger and other road users. In some cases, it could literally be an accident waiting to happen scenario.”

By checking a car’s history with HPI, peace of mind in terms of condition and mileage can lead to happier and much safer motoring.  The well-known vehicle history check from HPI includes full MOT history as standard on the HPI Check®, the most trusted vehicle history checker on the market. 

It is recommended that an HPI Check is commissioned in addition to any valuation. HPI Checks reveal some shocking statistics that can affect the value of a car, including 2205 cars being identified as write-offs, and 109 cars flagged as stolen every single day.