Law.com reports that after 16 years and litigation by three consumer safety groups, the U.S. Department of Justice has made an online database available to states and consumers to discover automobile fraud and to provide new tools for law enforcement to investigate fraud, theft and other crimes involving vehicles. The database will be available only through third-party providers, and will not be free. But this is at least a start. Here are excerpts from the article:
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was made available for consumers on Jan. 30 and is accessible through third-party, fee-for-service Web sites. The Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance administers NMVTIS in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The system allows state motor vehicle administrators to verify and exchange titling and brand data and provides law enforcement officials, consumers and others with critical information regarding vehicle histories. Consumers now have access to the vehicle’s brand history, odometer data and basic vehicle information and can be redirected to the current state of record to access the full title record if available. Law enforcement can track the vehicle’s status from state to state by accessing the system directly.
Last year, Public Citizen, joined by Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) and Consumer Action, sued the Department of Justice in federal court in San Francisco, asking the court to order the government to implement the NMVTIS, which Congress had required 16 years ago.
In September, the court told DOJ it had until Jan. 30 to make the information available on the Internet and to issue a rule requiring states, insurance companies and junk yards to report safety information.
The information to be made available on Jan. 30 is still incomplete and covers less than two-thirds of U.S. vehicles, according to Public Citizen. That is because insurers and junk yards have until March 31 to begin reporting data. Currently, 10 states are not reporting vehicle data at all, while two states that are — New York and California — are attempting to prevent public access to that data.
Ultimately, with full participation from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, NMVTIS will prevent stolen motor vehicles, including clones, from entering into interstate commerce, protect states and consumers from fraud, reduce the use of stolen vehicles for illicit purposes including fundraising for criminal enterprises, and provide consumer protection from unsafe vehicles, according to DOJ.