Reflective number plate spray probe

TRADING standards are to investigate an Essex company for selling an aerosol spray that prevents number-plates being recorded by fixed police speed cameras.

TRADING standards are to investigate an Essex company for selling an aerosol spray that prevents number-plates being recorded by fixed police speed cameras.

Chelmsford-based paint company Flashtec insists its popular product is "perfectly legal", but officials at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency have asked Essex trading standards to investigate.

Motorists have inundated Flashtec's website since it started selling its special spray online six months ago.

The company claims a clear paint lacquer creates a protective coating, which reflects back the flash from the growing number of Gatso-type speed cameras.

It says that instead of recording a speeding motorist's registration number, the camera will instead produce an image of a blank white plate leaving police powerless to issue a penalty notice.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said yesterday drivers could be fined £1,000 if caught using the spray.

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And the DVLA added Flashtec had been reported to trading standards at Essex County Council because "the website is seeking to persuade people to use the product for an illegal purpose".

Yesterday, a council spokeswoman said they were awaiting the DVLA complaint.

But she added an unconnected company selling what she described as "a similar product" had previously been successfully prosecuted under the Trades Description Act after tests revealed it did not work.

"We will investigate any complaint and if necessary we will buy a can ourselves and conduct our own tests as we did for the other product," the spokeswoman said.

Bob Hillis, Flashtec joint managing director, said he had sold hundreds of the sprays since an American businessman wanting to manufacture the product in Britain contacted him last year.

Each 400-millilitre can, which costs £25 and is also sold on the high street, contains enough lacquer to coat six plates. The coats last 12 months and the company claims they do not wash off.

Mr Hillis, 44, stressed he did not condone speeding, but was against how cameras were being used.

"Our lawyers tell us the product's perfectly legal as long as people are not actually using it while being caught speeding.

"It's a bit of a grey area. We've not had any legal letters at all - I think the DfT are just trying to scare people.

"I've used the spray myself - I've been caught speeding in the past, but these cameras are all about raising money."

However, a DfT spokesman said: "It is an offence to treat a number-plate in a way that obstructs a car's registration number.

"These sprays are illegal and could result in a fine of £1,000."

Meanwhile, Essex Safety Camera Partnership - a joint venture that includes Essex Police and Essex County Council and which is fully funded from motorist fines - yesterday launched a £35,000 advertising campaign telling drivers to slow down.

Buses and radio airwaves are being blitzed with the camera bosses' message - that slower speeds mean fewer accidents because drivers are more time to see hazards.

Partnership spokeswoman Kelly Fairweather said: "By slowing down you'll have more time to react, so you'll be a safer driver."

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