UK driving license and car hire in FranceWe speak to the AA about the controversial DVLA scheme for car hire abroad

For some care hire in France customers this summer there was chaos and confusion, but the dust has now settled on the DVLA’s decision to introduce a digital-only procedure for UK motorists hiring a car in France. Still, it’s an ever-evolving story…

Following considerable public uproar upon launch, when the inundated DVLA site experienced problems and there were reports of widespread delays at car hire desks with travellers and hire companies alike unsure about what (if anything) was required, there is now seemingly more encouraging news.

The organisation decided in July to extend the period from 72 hours to 21 days for which the online-generated passcode would be valid. The paper counterpart, containing details of driving offences and the types of vehicles that the driver is permitted to drive, has now ‘officially’ been done away with.

Speaking with hindsight to FrenchEntrée about the original announcement of the scheme, the AA told us: “One fear we had was that if the whole counterpart license question got too difficult for a driver, they would not bother queueing at a reputable car hire firm and simply go to the dodgy end of the business. Which of course means some companies could be allowing dangerous drivers on the road.”

The AA now welcomes the DVLA’s passcode period extension. “To avoid confusion and a breakdown in the market at airports and railway stations, it made sense to come up with a sensible temporary solution,” they said of the new three-week period for which the passcode will be valid.

A popular scheme

More than 1.2million ‘check codes’ have been generated since June 8, the DVLA says. But it’s now emerging that that not all companies are using the online check, a fresh development that’s worrying the AA. “Being cynical, you could argue that the car hire firms are quite happy with this course of action [not checking the counterpart either paper or digital] because they already have your credit card information and any damage will be covered.”

So could it be that that people are being asked to jump through bureaucratic hoops on the off chance that the car hire firm might ask for the code? Actually, as the DVLA states, there are no legal requirements here – it’s at the car hire firm’s discretion to check a driver’s record. So yes, there is an element of randomness to it.

So what should I do?

Our advice is simple: why take the risk? Take your photocard license, download your check code before departing to France and take a print out of the electronic summary of your driving record. The AA told us that they too recommend this ‘belt and braces’ approach.

As for the future of the scheme, the AA is not convinced that the current system – though more sympathetic to the customer thanks to the extended validity period of the passcode – is viable long-term. They see it as a flawed system and would like the DVLA to look at improvements. “It’s still convoluted. We hope that a more streamline and elegant system for car hire firms to check driver records can be found, with perhaps the easiest way being the use of the hirer’s passport number,” they told FrenchEntrée.

FrenchEntrée will be keeping an eye on the situation, but here’s a reminder of what you need to know:

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the government’s official information on car hire. Drivers are also reminded that they will need to provide their National Insurance number when entering the verification information needed to obtain their online code.

The DVLA recommends that holidaymakers contact their intended car-hire company to establish what information the company requires before they make a vehicle available for hire.

We’d love to hear your stories of car hire heaven or hell in France. Please leave your comments below.

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One Response to “Car hire in France advice: the new rules”

  1. phil_in_frangy

    This is so confusing. I have a letter from the DVLA that states very clearly that they will not change the address on a license if you reside outside the UK. The local gendarmerie told me that I do not need to change my license unless I am guilty of some road-related infraction here in France. Actually I have been told that at two gendarmeries in different departments.

    Car hire: I hire cars regularly and have never been asked to provide the paper part. And yes I use reputable dealers.

    Ive noticed that some people seem unaware that even if you take out additional insurance to cover any excess in the event of an accident, the car hire company will still block your credit card for the excess amount. If you have an accident then they will take the money. It is then up to you to claim from the insurance company. For that reason be sure to keep ALL paperwork and in particular the signed document verifying the state of the car when you took it out.

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