Automovel Club from Portugal wine the FIA Legal & Consumer Affairs Award 2009!
Amendment of the Portuguese car registration law regarding the sale of used Cars
ACP with the help of an on-line petition supported by thousands of Portuguese – ACP members and the general public – together with a concerted media campaign, succeeded on 6th May 2008 in getting an important amendment introduced by the Portuguese Parliament into the car registration law regarding the sale of used cars.
Prior to the adoption of this amendment, used cars sales could only be registered in the Automobile Registry Department by the buyer. If the buyer failed to register as the car’s new legal owner then in Portuguese law, the seller remained legally responsible and liable for the car (even though it was no longer in his possession) regarding any fines and accidents, etc subsequently incurred by the new owner. In addition, following a major overhaul of car tax laws in Portugal in 2007; this responsibility also extended to being liable to pay the newly introduced circulation tax.
Suddenly many people who had actually sold their cars in previous years found themselves lumbered with tax bills simply because they could neither trace the actual vehicle owners nor oblige them to register the vehicle in their name. Thousands of complaints poured into ACP as a result.
Thus in the summer of 2007, in response to the outcry from both ACP members and the public at large, ACP president Carlos Barbosa, spearheaded a national campaign via the media, urging the authorities to make changes in the law and provide a special derogation whereby for a certain period, the sellers of cars exceptionally could register the sale of their vehicles thus transferring legal ownership to those who had purchased their vehicles. By January 2008 some progress had been achieved in that, a new Decree was adopted giving those who had sold their cars more than two years earlier the exceptional right to register their sales. This highly successful achievement benefitted not just members of the ACP but anyone in Portugal who found themselves in the predicament of having sold a car to an untraceable and unregistered buyer.
The online petition launched in July 2007 really bore fruit on 6th May 2008 when Carlos Barbosa was present in the Portuguese Parliament to present the people’s petition (which was shown on TV) containing thousands of supporting signatures and to witness the adoption in full of the amendment as proposed by the ACP providing a special derogation for all sellers who had sold their vehicles prior to 31st January 2008 – the date of entry into effect of new circulation tax law became effective.
Solid legal expertise, consistent and strong political lobbying backed up by a well executed media campaign were all reasons why the jury selected this initiative as the 2009 winner. ACP’s amendment benefits all in Portugal who sold vehicles in the period prior to January 2008 and has probably saved them collectively millions of Euro. For a relatively small club like ACP to have scored such a major legal and consumer protection goal for so many citizens is a good signal for other clubs that with the right mix of expertise, strategy and conviction it is possible to change laws and thereby promote motorists’ rights and interests.