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DVLA trials new Amazon Alexa service

Motorists can now access up-to-the-minute information from the DVLA about their vehicle tax and MOT status through Amazon’s Alexa service.

The DVLA is trialling an Alexa product, known as a ‘skill’, which is free to enable on the Alexa Skill Store. It works by customers reading out the vehicle registration to an Alexa-enabled device such as an Echo. ‘Alexa’ then reads the information back, letting the customer know when their vehicle tax is due.

This information, which is also available on gov.uk/check-vehicle-tax, helps customers to check the date their vehicle tax is due, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“We’re really excited about trialling an innovative skill that gives customers access to information about their vehicles,” DVLA Chief Executive Oliver Morley said. “Providing choice in how people use our services is important to the DVLA, and by trialling this skill we are giving customers another way to get information quickly and easily – helping them to keep on top of their vehicle tax. It is another example of how we are always looking to test new ways of providing digital services to make things simpler and better for the UK’s motorists.”

Top tips for a smooth rental experience this summer

The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association has provided some tips and advice for holidaymakers planning on renting a car this summer.

Here are the BVRLA’s simple steps to enjoy a hassle-free car hire experience:

1. Check before you book. Pay close attention to what is and isn’t included in the reservation quote, especially when using price comparison websites. Many companies only provide a basic drive-away quote that may not include additional extras, such as child seats, sat navs, paperwork for taking the vehicle abroad or additional drivers.

2. Tell the rental company how you plan to use the vehicle. Tell the rental company if you plan to take the vehicle abroad – some companies won’t let you take rental vehicles into certain countries. You’ll also need to bring additional documentation, such as a VE103 (vehicle on hire document which shows that you are entitled to drive a hire vehicle abroad) certificate and proof that you’re insured to drive in that country.

3. Read the paperwork before you sign the contract. Read and understand the terms and conditions of your rental contract. Ask for a copy of the agreement prior to your rental, so you can read it in your own time.

4. Check if you’re covered in the event of an accident. It’s important to know the difference between the excess waivers offered by rental companies and the policies sold by third-party excess-reimbursement insurers – they’re not the same product. Check if there are any exclusions in your loss or damage waiver, such as roof, windscreen or tyre damage.

5. Be aware of the local road laws and regulations. You’ll be liable to pay a fine and administrative fee if you’re caught committing a road traffic offence or fail to pay a toll charge. It’s best to familiarise yourself with the driving regulations of that country before you arrive.

6. Understand the fuelling options you have. Your car rental quote will not include the cost of fuel. Most companies will give you the option of buying a tank of fuel from them and returning the car empty or with a fuel tank.

7. Arrive prepared. Arrive at the rental desk with the correct documentation required by the company, such as the credit card used to make the booking and your driving licence. Ensure you have considered any extras or upgrades you may wish to make and how much you are prepared to pay for them.

8. Check the vehicle over before you drive away. Thoroughly inspect the vehicle inside and out before driving away and familiarise yourself with its controls. Note down every chip, dent and scratch and inspect the wheels, windscreen and lights, as these are common damage areas. Make sure any damage is reported to the rental company and try to take photographs before leaving the parking lot.

9. Don’t drop and dash when returning the vehicle. Allow plenty of time to check over the vehicle’s condition with a rental agent present when returning the vehicle. If you can’t return it during opening hours and sign a condition report, photograph the vehicle to be able to prove the condition you left it in. When you drop the car off in out-of-office hours, you are liable for any damage that occurs between you returning it and the company inspecting it.

10. Know where to go if you have a complaint. In the event of a dispute, put your complaint in writing to the rental company first. If they provide an unsatisfactory response, you can use the BVRLA’s Conciliation Service if you rented a vehicle from a BVRLA member in the UK. If you have a complaint for a rental that took place in Europe, the European Car Rental Conciliation Service may be able to help.

“We urge holidaymakers to look out for the BVRLA logo when renting a car in the UK,” BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney said. “Consumers who hire from a BVRLA member will have the peace of mind that the rental company adheres to a rigorous Code of Conduct and meets industry standards. In the event that any problems arise, the BVRLA’s Trading Standards Institute-approved Conciliation Service offers a resolution service for further protection.”