Until 4 April 2022, anyone wanting information on the owner of a vehicle in the canton of Vaud had to make a formal application to the cantonal vehicle registry and pay CHF 20. However, from that date anyone can instantly get an owner’s name and address using the free online Auto-Index system. Other Swiss cantons, including Zurich, Zug, Aargau, Luzern and Schaffhausen use the same system.
Before the change some privacy experts warned the service would be misused. Reports from Lausanne suggest the experts were right.
This week, the newspaper Lausanne Cités reported two cases of misuse.
In the first, a 25 year old women noticed a man staring at her when she returned to her car after an evening of celebration with two friends in Renens, a town near Lausanne. She thought nothing of the incident until the same man turned up outside her house two weeks later. When confronted, the man revealed that he had used the administration’s Auto-Index website to track her down.
A second incident involved a man who had been tailgated by an irate motorcyclist after entering a roundabout ahead of him. The following day the motorcyclist appeared outside his house and became violent. The man received a black eye and a ripped shirt before being saved by his neighbour.
In response, SAN, the vehicle registry in Vaud, reported that it has received no complaints regarding the online Auto-Index and appeared to have no plans to change the system.
Before the change, to obtain the name and address of a car owner in Vaud a form had to be filled out and sent to the the vehicle registry along with a payment (CHF 20). This took time, money and created a record of the person requesting the information. Now the information can be obtained anonymously, something particularly appealing to those with bad intentions.
The Swiss cantons of Aargau, Luzern, Schaffhausen, Zug and Zurich offer the same free anonymous online vehicle search service. Other cantons typically require registration and payment to access vehicle owner information. In Geneva a request costs CHF 10 and must be justified. 13 other cantons use a system called eAutoindex. This system uses SMS or email (potential identifiers) and costs 1 CHF per search.
What can be done to protect your personal data?
In Vaud, it is possible to have your details removed from the Auto-Index database by filling out a form and sending it to SAN either by email or post – the email and address are on the form. Other cantons offer a similar possibility. More information for Zurich can be found here.