Opinion: Lifting the moratorium on car rental licenses

POSTED: 09/9/14 10:48 PM

We’re not confident that the explanation Economic Affairs Minister Ted Richardson gave at the end of last week about his reasons for lifting the moratorium on car rental licenses is solid. It feels too much like departure policy – a decision taken by a minister during his last weeks in office to do someone a favor.

That car rental companies have quite some of their cars registered on French number plates is not a secret. This has been going on since the invention of the number plate and nobody has ever done anything about it.

Minister Richardson says now that using French number plates is against the law. The car rental companies were advised to remedy the situation, according the press release he issued. Imagine that: the police stop a motorist because he is not wearing his seatbelt or he is on the phone while driving. Would the police “advise the motorist to remedy the situation?”

Of course not. The motorist would get a fine. Apparently, car rental companies belong to a different category of citizens. Instead of slamming them with a fine for – we imagine – evading taxes for years and for breaking the law by using French number plates, they are advised to remedy the situation.

The numbers the minister mentions in his press release do not make a lot of sense either – at least, we are not able to make sense of them.

Apparently there are 143 car rental permits floating around, while 56 permit holders actually picked up number plates. A bit more than 2,300 R number plates have been picked up for this year. This represents, again, according to the press release, 59 percent of the number of cars that can be put on the road by car rental companies. If 2,309 equal 59 percent, it means that the total volume of rental cars is 3,908.

Thirteen companies have licenses for a 200-car fleet. These 2,600 rentals are 65 percent of the total.

The question is of course: if there are around 1,600 rentals driving around with French plates, why does the ministry not act and take them off the streets? That would give new players some volume to play with. With permits for a 100 cars max, the ministry could issue 16 new licenses without adding to the bloated rental car fleet.

Worrisome is the remark that “the publishing of the moratorium lifting may encourage the license holders to be identified and properly recorded.” This suggests that the ministry actually has no idea who these license holders are. Now there is some food for thought. Why would that be?

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