A situation that I was in recently got me thinking. Let me state the question first, then give context:

if the DVLA can (legally) say that they do not take (or give) information via email, can I (legally) say that I do not take (or give) information via the post?

The idea behind this is that I don't want to do post, because it takes so long and I don't have any proper proof of what I've sent. That said, this is a hypothetical question, not something that I'm trying to implement -- I am merely interested in the legal nature of it!

I had previously written context here, but the first answer is focused almost entirely on the specific case and why the DVLA have that policy. I understand why this is the case, I am merely asking out of legal curiosity, not have a whinge!

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    "carrier pigeon" Do you know, there is actually an RFC for TCP/IP by carrier pigeon, and there was a test implementation once. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_over_Avian_Carriers where it says that the system has "poor latency". Not really very relevant to the question, I know. Dec 31, 2018 at 17:58
  • That's amazing!
    – Sam OT
    Dec 31, 2018 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


In general if you receive a letter about something then a court is going to deem that you have been notified, so you can't just declare to the DVLA or anyone else that letters to you have no effect. If you were to try arguing that in a court then the judge would probably also fine you for violating the Silly Buggers (Prohibition of Playing) Act.

On the wider implied question of why the DVLA makes this policy:

  • The trouble with phone calls is that there is no audit trail. So if the DVLA accepted phone notification they would be unable to prove exactly who said what, so you could tell a bunch of lies and then claim it was the DVLA employee's fault for entering it wrong. (Yes, I know phone calls can be recorded, but keeping a record of everything for 6 years is orders of magnitude harder than spot checks for QA).

  • Emails are easier, but still have a tendency to go astray. Also some people don't look at their email regularly or may change their address when they change their ISP. They do however tend to notice when an envelope is delivered.

  • You are legally required to tell the DVLA when you change address, so the DVLA is entitled to assume the address they have for you is good, and hence its your fault if you ignore a letter they send to you.

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    I love the "Silly Buggers (Prohibition of Playing) Act.". I suppose in an actual case, something like "frivolous response" would be cited by the judge, as the fine is imposed. Dec 31, 2018 at 16:17
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    @DavidSiegel I believe judges have wide powers to sanction those they feel are wasting their time. Dec 31, 2018 at 16:18
  • Exactly. I just meant that the judge wouldn't use your wording, delicious as it is. Dec 31, 2018 at 16:20
  • This does partially answer the question. I already understand the reason why DVLA send letters themselves, which your second part addresses (but doesn't address why they won't receive emails); but the first paragraph is what I'm interested in. Could you elaborate on that? For example, what makes you think that someone living in a large block of flats would routinely check their mail? What happens if someone is outspoken about certain policies, and genuinely feel (legitimately or otherwise) that there may be threats against their life? Might the letters contain anthrax? [...]
    – Sam OT
    Dec 31, 2018 at 17:32
  • [...] They may have a policy to never open any letters (anyone can get a DVLA envelope without much difficulty). \\ As stated in the OP, I definitely have no intention of trying to enact this! -- not remotely worth the hassle =P. I've restated the question slightly to change "phone" to "email", as I think this is better. \\ While I do like the "Silly Buggers" reference, I don't feel this fully answer my question, so while I have given a +1 for the first paragraph, I haven't accepted it.
    – Sam OT
    Dec 31, 2018 at 17:35

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