Halfords suspends electric bike sales in Northern Ireland, refunds offered

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Halfords will remove electric bikes from sale in Northern Ireland until legislation is amended to once again classify non speed models as bicycles.

Regulations relating to the sale of electric bikes in the UK has not been applied in Northern Ireland, with the country defaulting to classing anything with a motor as a motorcycle, thus requiring all of the same taxes, registration and safety gear.

As a result the retail group are believed to be concerned about misleading customers and have pulled e-bikes from sale until the DVLA clarify their stance. The firm’s online buyer’s guide outlines the legality, suggesting buyers will need tax, insurance, a certified motorcycle helmet, DVLA registration and an AM category moped licence.

Recently the business issued a press release warning that a speculated upon compulsory insurance would damage the market.

Halfords has submitted a response to the Department for Transport opposing the introduction of compulsory third party insurance for electric bikes. The Bicycle Association of Great Britain is further co-ordinating an industry response to the issue.

Simon Irons, Halfords Cycling Director says “Anything that makes cycling less accessible is a real concern. We believe that this ruling could lead to many unintended and impractical consequences for cyclists, insurers and legal organisations alike and burden people with unfair costs in a market that has the potential to help the Government achieve its aim to get people more active and help reduce future pressure on areas such as the NHS.”

According to the Belfast Telegraph the retailer may also be offering refunds to customers who have purchased in Northern Ireland, should they be concerned.

The BAGB has further issued this guidance for retailers in Northern Ireland:

– The familiar EAPC rules (including 250W, 25 km/h cut-off limits)
allowing use of e-bikes without motorbike requirements DO NOT apply
in Northern Ireland. Transport law is a devolved matter, and the EAPC
regulations were not carried over into Northern Ireland law. So what
is an electric bike in the rest of the UK is still treated as a
motorbike when used in Northern Ireland.

– So to use EAPC-type e-bikes legally in NI, users must register
their e-bikes (with the DVLA), tax, insure, have a driving licence,
and use an approved motorbike helmet. No type approval is required
however, except for “Twist and go” type e-bikes.

– Note that this is about USE of e-bikes, and the requirements above
are for the buyer, before they can legally use the bike. Sellers can
continue to sell e-bikes legally without further paperwork (unless
they are ‘twist and go’ type, in which case type approval is
required).

– However, sellers are advised to consider carefully the implications
of this. As a minimum, sellers should make customers explicitly and
fully aware of their legal obligations, and the possible consequences
of using such a bike without registration etc. In the event of an
accident they could be found to be riding an unregistered and untaxed
motorbike, and riding without an approved helmet. As well as fines
they may also receive points on their driving licence. Also, any
insurance they may have is likely to be invalidated, leaving them
open to potential liabilities to third parties if, for example, they
injure someone while riding.

– Officials in Northern Ireland are now keenly aware of the issue
(especially as promoting e-bikes is part of their recently published
Cycling Strategy!) and they are right now drafting the legislation
which would bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK.
However, the current political impasse means that nothing can be
implemented until a new Assembly is in place, and this will be
several months away at least. They do say that “Sellers can advise
customers that the Department is working to resolve this issue and
will implement legislation to exempts EAPCs from registration and
licensing requirements when the NI Assembly has reconvened.”

– The UK’s DfT have also updated the “E-bikes – the rules” web page
to clarify to consumers that NI is not included in EAPC rules:
https://www.gov.uk/electric-bike-rules

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