Thousands of motorists are probably entitled to free NCT tests because of the failure of test centres to provide appointments, but none have yet been offered, the Fianna Fáil spokesman on transport has said.
The customer charter operated by the NCT provides that motorists who are not offered a test within 28 days of seeking one are entitled to a free test, but in fact no vehicle owner has been offered a free test despite the huge delays in test centres around the State, said deputy James O’Connor, who is also a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications.
Delays of up to four months in some test centres mean the law may have to be amended to ensure that people left waiting for their NCT tests are not criminalised through no fault of their own, he said.
“Not having a valid NCT is a criminal offence and can lead to penalty points, and it is not fair to An Garda Siochána that they should be asked to deal with the situation by way of their discretionary powers,” he told The Irish Times.
Temporary amendments may also be needed to make sure that motorists who do not have valid NCT certificates through no fault of their own, do not find their insurance cover in question, he said. As matters stand, motorists who do not have valid NCT certificates are technically in breach of their insurance terms.
The commitment to void the €55 fee for customers who had to wait for more than 28 days was dropped during the Covid pandemic restrictions but reintroduced in October of last year, he said.
There is an expectation that up to 2 million tests will be carried out this year in an effort to deal with the backlog that has accumulated, and it is likely that “tens of thousands” of these will involve vehicle owners who have had to wait for more than 28 days, he said.
In his constituency of Cork East motorists are finding they are being asked to wait almost four months for their NCT test “and yet the current information is that no one is being offered a refund,” Mr O’Connor said.
He wants the Oireachtas transport committee to look into this when it resumes sittings, he said. “It is likely that a very significant number of vehicle owners are entitled to a free test.”
A spokeswoman for Insurance Ireland, the representative body for insurance providers in the State, said its member were taking a “pragmatic and understanding” approach to the issue of delays at NCT test centres.
“Cover will continue to be provided where customers, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain their NCT due to backlogs at test centres.”
Motor insurance and road traffic legislation require that motorists maintain their vehicles in a roadworthy condition at all times and this remains the case, she said.
“Under the current circumstances, provided motorists make every effort to book appointments in the normal way, insurance companies will recognise that the current issue is not the fault of the customer. Motorists should keep evidence of their appointment booking.”
The National Car Testing Service [NCT] is run by Applus, on behalf of the Road Safety Authority. Efforts to contact both entities on Sunday were unsuccessful. The NCT website notes that Insurance Ireland has said its members will be pragmatic when dealing with the requirement that insured car owners have NCT certs.
“Under the current circumstances, provided motorists make every effort to book appointments in the normal way, insurance companies will recognise that the current issue is not the fault of the customer.”
While service level agreements for the delivery of the test state that the average waiting time for a test, the current average waiting time is 29 days, with some test centres having much longer delays than that.