Odometer fraud remains major problem, Czech Radio reports

Photo: Ondřej Jánoška

Odometer fraud continues to be a major problem for buyers of second-hand cars in the Czech Republic. Past studies suggested that as many as 42 percent of vehicles sold, including imported cars, had seen their odometers tampered with. Findings suggested that cars with more than 100,000 kilometres travelled were often modified for a simple reason, to secure a better sale price.

Photo: Ondřej Jánoška
Many Czechs consider second-hand the way to go when buying a “new”” car, but others would be hard pressed to buy second-hand, with reports suggesting odometer fraud remains high. A survey by Cebia in 2016 suggested that 42 percent of vehicles sold had had mileage tampered with. On Tuesday, Czech Radio reported that odometer fraud remains a major problem.

The main reason?

The difficulty to prove that a crime had taken place: an Interior Ministry official told the broadcaster that while odometer fraud constituted a crime, the devil was in the details, namely, that the actual wrongdoing was often difficult to prove. It is hard to pinpoint when the deed was done, whether the seller knew about it or someone else. The ministry confirmed, Czech Radio said, that there were hundreds of thousands of cases of fraud each year, making some think twice about getting second-hand vehicles. “It belonged to a little old lady who drove it only on Sundays” is be especially hard to swallow here.

Yet, Czech Radio reports, fixes would be available, if the country took its cue from fellow EU-members such as Belgium, where, the broadcaster claims, odometer fraud has been all but wiped out. The broadcaster points to the Belgian NGO Car-Pass, which issues a certificate in the country without which no vehicle can be sold on the second-hand market. Anyone wishing to acquire the certificate has to meet the necessary requirements – chief among them that every car repair shop, every mechanic is required to fill in information about the actual state of the odometer.

In short, a trail of bread crumbs is left which would be almost impossible to erase. The system, under the auspices of the Belgian government, has been operational for more than a decade and the number of fraud cases had dropped significantly, from 60 to one hundred thousand before to between just 1,200 and 1,300 today. Centralising the database is the reason, along with certification of kilometres driven. According to the broadcaster, no such changes are planned in the Czech Republic at present, although greater police checks of STK – mandatory biennial technical controls – are apparently in the cards.