Sunday, November 16, 2014

What will happen if you don’t pay your ticket for a traffic violation in Italy?

When I received a traffic ticket while driving a rental car in Italy in 2011, I wondered what would happen if I didn’t pay the fine. I read advice in several online forums, but it was just that—advice. No one seemed to truly know what would happen. A few people said they did not pay and nothing had happened yet, but the bureaucracy in Italy works slowly, so I realized that something could have happened later and the people just didn’t update their old forum comments. I have now met a man who was ticketed in Italy about four and a half years ago in Italy and didn’t pay. Mark thought the incident was long behind him, but in the past year, he and his wife have been receiving persistent calls from a collection agency in the United States.
 
Mark had received four ZTL (limited traffic area zone) tickets; three were in Milan, all in the same spot, as he circled in a round-about trying to determine which was the correct exit.

He did not pay the fines, reasoning that
it’s not fair to give tickets to drivers who can’t read the signs or to give three tickets for the same violation.” Mark didn’t even have to pay the car rental agency a fee when they tried to charge his credit card. The bank called him and said that someone from Italy was trying to charge his card months after his trip was over, and he told the credit card representative that the charges must be fraudulent, since he had not made any recent purchases in Italy. Then he had his credit card number changed.

He realized when he received the traffic tickets in the mail that the attempt to charge his credit card must have been related. Several times he received registered letters sent from Italy, but he refused to sign for them, and they were returned. When he hadn’t received any more communications from Italy for many months, he thought the whole incident was behind him.

But a collection agency started calling earlier this year, sometimes multiple times in a day, sometimes only fifteen minutes apart all through the afternoon or evening. He usually didn’t answer the phone, and occasionally someone at the agency left a voice mail explaining the purpose of the calls. One time his wife did accidentally answer the phone, and she was told that the agency would take legal action forcing her husband to appear before a federal magistrate.

Mark is still not concerned, because even if taken to court, he would ask for proof that he had committed a violation. “All they sent me was a photo of the car license plate,” he said. “They have no photo of me at the wheel.”

He also has heard that once five years has passed, it will be too late for Italy to continue pursuing the tickets and he will be completely off the hook. He does concede that it would be wise for him not to return to Italy, at least until this five-year period is up. “Otherwise,” he joked, “I might be joining Amanda Knox in an Italian jail.” Not likely, since Amanda also has the good sense not to return to Italy right now.

Update, March 2017: Mark said: "Five years to the day the calls stopped. We haven't heard from anyone since . . . the courts or credit collectors. The next big test will be when we head back to Italy!"

Read also: Italian traffic tickets are now easier to pay.


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I have written several other blogs on traffic tickets in Italy:


32 comments:

  1. Interesting. 5 years fron date of offence and they will nit be able to proceed? EU should standadise this aspect of Italian fine system. As I understand it, if you really want to appeal, ot has to be in Italian. Strange way of welcoming tourists. Most countries are lenient with tourists.

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  2. It's extortion. We just got one for €362 for going 82km in a 70km zone. We had a GPS that warned us about all the automatic speed control traps and we were extra careful about driving slowly. We also got a restricted zone ticket earlier related to the return location of the Avis car. Avis has a drop off location in Venice which is in a restricted zone and they don't tell you that you will be fined months later for going there. Will never drive again in that country, they take advantage of tourists.

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    1. Same thing happened to us trying to get to the rental car return. My husband got four tickets totaling over $1600!!! We went ahead and paid them because we go back about every 3-4 years and didn't want to risk it. WHY, when the rental agency knows where you're going to return your car do they not tell you that you'll need the special sticker?

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    2. That's terrible!! Where were you returning the car? I'll want to avoid driving in that city!

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  3. Thanks very nice blog!

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  4. So are you saying it's ok to NOT pay the fine? The camera's taking pictures have no idea who is driving (whether an Italian or a tourist).

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    1. Well, that is what Mark is saying, anyway. I suppose the police *might* prevail if they could show evidence that the photo was taken on the same date that the car was in Mark's possession (and proving the dates of possession as well). It is unlikely that the Italian police and the collection agency would go to this trouble. And since Mark was never called before a federal magistrate, as the collection company threatened, the statement was indeed just a threat.

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  5. In 2016 my friend and I rented a car and drove to a pool you we were in Italy for 36 Days. When I arrived home since I had charged the rental car on my credit card I was notified by mail and through my credit card company that I received a ticket in Italy but not a paper ticket. It must have been some kind of camera took it. I did not get a copy of that ticket.

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  6. My advice is do not pay , never ever reply , there is nothing they can legally, after extensive research I came to the the conclusion that nothing happens when you don't pay, typical Italian racket , only threat s , this fines are only from a municipal ities ,

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  7. Just got back from Europe and had 4 credit cards scammed and to top that off I now received a speeding fine from France and 2 ZTL fines from Tuscany. I wasn't driving, but I did pay for the rental car so I went online to pay them just to make them go away. The 2 Fines from Tuscany states that it's been over the 5 days so they have now gone up and I can't pay on their website as it's offline and the link for international payments doesn't work.

    So I'm not left with much options but to NOT pay right not. I looked at the photo and its just a photo of the number plate so it doesn't tell me much. I have no intention of going back to Italy .. I guess I'll be hearing from these collection companies. :(

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  8. The same with me on 2009, I got in my creditcard 3 debits of $40 dollars from the rental card company. Administrative fees for 3 tickets. I contacted them and I asked the tickets ,they said that was sent to my address , I say that I didn't get it and I need the tickets, they said that they can't have copy of the tickets. I explained it to VISa and the returned the money. I am always scare if I return to Italy I will have some problems.

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  9. We were in Cortona in October and got 4 ZTL tickets in the same plaza for all 4 tickets in February They are all around 116.75 Euros. We do not want to pay them but am concerned it will affect our credit since it seems they are sending them from a US credit collection. Anyone have any info if it affected their credit.

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  10. I just received a letter regarding entering a limited traffic area in Bellagio, the letter states the fine is 58.10 euro if paid within 5 days of recieving the notice. I go online to pay it and the amount line is already populated with an amount 2.5 x what the letter says. Screw them, if they won't play by the rules, neither will I, I kept my money.

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    1. Did you have the option to change the amount to what the letter said, or was the higher amount locked in? If you can change it to the lower amount, I'd do it. Otherwise, I don't blame you for being upset!

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  11. Every driver, regardless of age, driving skills and country of residence must have a set of documents to get a rental car. Read this information carefully so that you do not have any problems during the car rental procedure. In order for you to use a car hire service, you first need to have a passport or one of the other documents that certify your identity. This is necessary to draw up a lease agreement and insurance for the driver and passengers in USA. Note:
    under 21 Car rental
    Your document may be an international passport or travel document. To rent a car abroad, your document should not be expired and damaged. In the passport you must have your photo;
    If you are less than 21 years old, you must have a driving experience of at least 1 year. Please note that there should be no car accidents and other incidents in your driving skill history. You must have a driver's license of international format (this is a plastic card);
    Drivers under the age of 21 have a limited number of USA car rental categories: CCAR, CFAR, ECAR, FCAR, ICAR, IFAR, ILAE, ISAR, MBAR, MVAR, SCAR, SSAR.

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  12. So today I check my spam folder for a missing email and some collection place called cedar business services has a VERY old email address of mine and has been proper spamming my email telling me the ticket fee is double plus fines. Best part, they say they are not hired to collect but work in "partnership" with the city of Pisa. Google search them and I find this is going on all over the place from these idiots.

    Here I am 2 years after my last trip to Italy and apparently I had a ZTL ticket from Pisa. I remember this area since we were on the way to the tower, saw the sign and stopped just after it and I thought I'd be in the clear. Clearly not and I'm all for paying the tax, even if it was an accident. BUT, I never got the ticket in the mail, nor could I find a way to pay it online and I'm sure as hell not paying that collection agency. Italy can have my money (especially every 2 years when I vacation there), but no damn collection agency with ZERO authority. How's that for funny.

    Anyway, we were scheduled to go back this year (thanks covid...), so we'll try again next and if not I'll come back after this 5 year mark (Sept 2023) and let everyone know what happens. Might even ask this blogger to allow me to post my "adventures" so people know what really happens "when you don't pay".

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    1. I'm always looking for a good story!

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    2. Really hope to heard from you. As i also experience the same issues. i have 3 fines on hand.

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  13. In Tuscany received 2 tickets on the same day, one for going more than 5KM over the speed limit and the other for driving into a restricted area. The fines are outrageous, about $150 dollars after conversion and fees plus the rental car administrative fee which I didn't mind paying. I will play it this way. We spent over $5k in 12 days in Italy. Italy is truly so beautiful, but it isn't the only beautiful place. If the fines were more reasonable, I would've paid. But now, I'm not going to. I'll wait the 5 years, and not only will Italy not get the fines, but they'll also lose my tourist dollars. Take that.

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  14. Received fines for 5km over the speed limit and driving in restricted area, both in Tuscany. Both about $150 after fine and fees. Wife and I spent $6k in 11/12 days. I'll wait the 5 years. Yes, Italy is very beautiful, but it isn't the only beautiful place. Not only do they not get to extort me but they will lose my tourist dollars for the next 5 years as well. Hopefully the Italian government will limit it's practice of robbing it's tourists as it costs them more in the long run.

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  15. I am in a similar situation. Ticket was for $149 and now collection agency sent a letter asking for $820. I am willing to pay the original ticket but not the extra. Do you think they can report this to credit agencies if ticket is not paid?

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    1. I've read a lot of comments and complaints online, but I've never heard of anyone who has had an unpaid traffic ticket show up in a credit report. Nor have I heard of anyone who had trouble when they returned to Italy for another vacation.

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  16. I just got 3 letters today and the incidents happend in 2016. They want 1000 euro, this is insane. What should I do ?

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    1. Wow, I haven't heard of such a long wait before they try to collect. I'm assuming this is a collection agency, and not the Italian city where you had the incident, correct? Well, if you wait a year, it will be 5 years and they can't expect to collect from you. I do normally advise people to pay, as a matter of principal. But that does seem excessive and close to the deadline. Follow your conscience, I guess.

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  17. It's looks like they initially sent the 3 letters after 6 months of when the incidents happend but I was not at home for and after 10 days the post office returned the letters to italy as unclaimed. No in oct 2020 Nivi sent those 3 letter back asking for the fines to be paid. Adding a lot of penalties. I find it very unfair. I would like to pay the original fine but I do not agree with this insane penalties. Am I just complicating this asking them to pay for the original fine ?
    This happened in Florence in 2016… probably try ran out of money now and are desperate with whatever they can get

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    1. Hello, just wondering if you ended up paying the original fine or not? I am in the same boat as you – never received the original notification that was supposedly sent in October 2018, 11 months after the incident, and am now being asked for $600 from Nivi. I am quite stressed about it and would like to pay the original 160 euro so it goes away, but not if they will continue to harass me for more... any advice would be appreciated!

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    2. My advice, for what it's worth, is to pay 160 euro. I can't say if it will go away, but it might. At least you will have a clear conscience, and if they bug you, just say you paid the fine as soon as you received notice.

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  18. Here's a suggestion. You could pay the original amount of the fines. They are not likely to reject your payments. Then just ignore any additional letters, if you get any. Ultimately, from all my experience and research, nothing serious will happen, other than getting bothered by letters and perhaps phone calls. But you can then go on with a relatively clear conscience, knowing that you did what seemed fair to you.

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  19. I received a total of 5 ZTL fines on my last trip in Pisa (2), Florence and Naples (2). I too saw strange activity on my card after returning home and cancelled it, thinking it was fraud. A year later the fines had escalated to almost $500 each and were now in the hands of a US credit agency who were harassing me to pay them. Here's the thing - on every occasion I was displaying a valid EU disabilty badge as I was transporting my disabled mother - a UK resident. We had checked ahead of time and been given the OK to enter these areas, however, the camera systems that pick up the license plates do not record who is driving or what is displayed in the windshield. I naturally appealed - with substantial evidence - and haven't heard anything. Of course this doesn't deter the collection agency (who I also shared the evidence with) from harassing me. I submitted my appeal over 6 moths ago and have not heard anything and I very much doubt I ever will. I don't see why I need to pay a lawyer to deal with this when I was within my rights....

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  20. Sounds like you have a textbook example of a valid appeal case! I hope this all comes out well. Even if you don't get officially exonerated, take encouragement from tales such as Mark's, knowing that in the end, nothing substantial can really be done even if you were in the wrong. Did the collection agency respond, or are they still calling?

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Comments welcome.