Thursday, 21 January 2016

Open letter from the OC VLO to the BFG community

Hello, and a very Happy New Year to you from everyone at British Forces Germany’s Vehicle Licensing Office (VLO).

As OC VLO, I am often asked questions on vehicle insurance and more recently, the Aral Fuel Card. I thought it might be worth addressing some of these questions publically and in doing so, perhaps dispel a few rumours. I’m also going to offer some advice that just may help you out of a jam in the future. First up…

Aral Fuel Card (AFC)

What do I do if my AFC doesn’t work? 

Very occasionally, a member of BFG will attempt to use the AFC at a station and find that for one reason or another, the card doesn’t work. When this happens the teller should print off a small receipt which has an error code on it. It is vitally important that you secure this receipt, as without it you will not be able to claim your tax refund. Some people who have found themselves in this situation will send me the second receipt, the one that shows that they have paid full price for the fuel. I need both of these receipts, the first receipt (which the teller will sometimes bin as it pops out of the machine) and the second that shows what you paid. It’s only with both receipts and the email that you send to me that Aral will entertain a tax refund.

I will soon produce a cut out and keep message, written in English and in German that you can stick in the back of your purse or wallet for just such an occasion. It will explain to the teller the importance of that receipt and error code. Look out for this message appearing in the near future athttp://bfgnet.de/advice/bfg-fuelcard.html where you will also find more information on how to claim your tax refund.

When can I apply for my AFC?

People ask me if they can apply for an AFC before the vehicle to which it relates has arrived in Germany to help cut down the time waiting for the card. The answer to that question is…it depends. Yes, if you are importing a brand new car to Germany then by all means, ring your dealer in the UK a couple of weeks before you are due to collect your new vehicle, get the UK DVLA Vehicle Registration Number (VRN) from them and use it to apply for your AFC. Your card will then hopefully be available for you to collect on the same day you register your vehicle with BFG. If however you are arriving in Germany with an older car, then you will not be able to apply to advance, as I need to change your VRN when you register with us. Only then, once you know your new VRN, will you be able to apply for the AFC.

Please note that you will under no circumstances be able to collect your AFC until the vehicle to which it relates is registered with BFG.


How long will I wait for an AFC?

You may hear the occasional person grumble that it has taken ‘weeks’ for an AFC to be delivered. This is usually due to when the person applied. Aral usually prepare the card run on a Friday ready to be delivered on the following Wednesday. So if you apply for your card on say, the Friday morning, then you will have just missed a run. Aral will therefore produce your card up the following Wednesday and it is delivered to us in HQ for onward distribution. The longest most people will wait for an AFC is 2 weeks. This is reduced to just one week if you have applied just before the Aral run.

Whilst we are talking about Aral, I can highly recommend that you download the Aral app to your smartphone. It’s a great app for telling you where you nearest station is and which ones accept the AFC.

Finally, make sure you avoid any Aral station named ‘Aral Tank and Rast’. They do not accept the AFC and I will not be able to secure a tax refund should you buy fuel from them.


BFG Vehicle Insurance

BFG insurance can be a contentious issue and I am often asked why we are restricted to certain insurers for BFG registration purposes. It can be more expensive to insure a vehicle here in Germany (though not necessarily) and it would be better if I could accept any insurer (I am told). On the money side, the short answer is that LOA and COLA take this extra cost into consideration. But let me explain a little further...

Contrary to popular belief, the VLO will actually accept any German insurer. In fact, I actively pursue German insurers and encourage them to insure us. Most German insurers however, are unwilling to insure BFG registered vehicles. Sadly, more often than not, once they understand that the individual is not registering on the German ‘net’ but with BFG VLO, they refuse.

Most UK insurers won’t offer insurance to individuals permanently resident in another country, which is why we are limited to the few UK specialist military insurers who understand that individuals assigned to BFG are exactly that - permanently resident in Germany.

Whilst other insurers may offer you insurance, you will usually find it is holiday (or a variation of) insurance, and that they won’t pay out should you have to make a claim. I know this because I speak with them. Every time someone comes to me with a new insurer who claim to be able to support BFG, I ring the company up and discuss exactly what they are offering. Unfortunately for us, very few of them live up to their promises. 

The VLO rules on insurance are there to protect us from unscrupulous and unsuitable insurers. We ensure that you are perfectly road legal so that in the event of a claim, your application should be processed without any unnecessary obstacles.


Insurance cancellations

Please remember, that if you change your insurer or renew a policy for whatever reason then you absolutely must inform the VLO. Why? Well, when you make any change to your insurance, your old insurer writes to me to tell me that you have cancelled your insurance. I am then legally obliged to suspend your BFG registration until such a time that you have demonstrated that you are adequately insured. This effectively means that you are driving your vehicle illegally as you are not registered with a registering authority and I am then obliged to send you and your Chain of Command a letter informing them that you are in breach of Standing Order 3213.

It might also mean a nasty shock if you are expecting to swap your tax free vehicle after 12 months as you need to accumulate 12 months BFG registration before you can sell your car on - unless you want to pay the tax.

So, please keep us informed. If in doubt, pop into your local VLO with your new policy, or contact us using one of the methods below.

Contact us

Finally, I would like to invite you to submit any queries or suggestions you might have regarding the service that the VLO offer. You can contact the VLO in a number of ways. We have an official Facebook page where you can put questions to my team (search for British Forces Germany VLO and join the group), you can email me directly at ocvlo@yahoo.com, or you can phone us on 05219 254 2637. Alternatively, call in at your Local Vehicle Licensing Office where one of the team will gladly answer your questions or listen to your suggestions or head to http://bfgnet.de/advice/vlo/which is currently under renovation but will soon provide a lot more information on all things VLO.   

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tom

OC VLO