January 10, 2012
Hopefully today is the final installment in the saga of my Italian traffic ticket, but I can’t be sure. I take my third trip to my bank this morning to make the money transfer to pay my 240.27 euro fine. When I went last Friday, it was too late in the day to make a payment, but I left the bank clerk, Sandy, a copy of the ticket so she could fill out the paperwork.
Then I stop back Monday and Sandy faxes the transfer form to Suzy in the bank’s main office to be checked over before sending along for processing. I wait for nearly half an hour while Sandy makes some corrections and re-faxes the form to Suzy and they discuss the form on the telephone. Although the ticket provides the IBAN number, the bic/swift number and the fine-reference number, Suzy finally claims that she can’t process a transfer in euros without also having a UK sort code.
“Can you call the police department to get that?” Sandy asks me. No, I can’t, and I don’t want to even think about it. First, I hate talking Italian on the telephone. Second, there is no phone number given on the ticket. Third, if the UK sort code is really needed, don’t you think the ticket would have included that? I mean, the Italians send out thousands of these tickets per day, so they should know what they are doing. IBAN transfers are a standard way of paying bills and making deposits for travel reservations in Europe, so they know what is needed.
Because U.S. banks use a different money transfer system and rarely do IBAN transfers, the likelihood is nearly 100 percent that my bank is wrong about the need for a UK sort code. However, I don’t explain all this to Sandy. I just tell her I would like her to send the transfer without a sort code, but she says that Suzy won’t send it because it is required for sending euros.
“How about if you send it in U.S. dollars?” I ask. That doesn’t require the sort code, but the bank fee is $50 instead of $35. Go ahead, I say. But the magic 2 p.m. hour is past and it is too late to send it today.
Now I am back for the final time, and Sandy informs me that there is something wrong with the bic/swift number. Suzy has told her that the system does not recognize the number as being valid. They can send the transfer request, but she can’t be sure it will be accepted. In keeping with my theory that the Italians know more about IBAN transfers than the Americans, I authorize her to send it anyway.
So is this the end of the story? I have my doubts. A number of things could go wrong. I have sent the money in dollars instead of euros. Will they charge me an exchange fee? Maybe there really is a problem with the bic/swift number I was given on the ticket. And the final problem could be that I have missed the 60-day deadline for the reduced price payment. The ticket reads that the offense “requires a reduced payment, to be made within 60 days from the date of this fine-notification.” Beyond 60 days, the fine increases from 240.27 euro to 454.27 euro.
I received the ticket in November, but I didn’t note the exact date. I am pretty close to 60 days, but I honestly don’t know if I am over or under. The ticket is dated Oct. 14, and the letter is postmarked Oct. 27. If one figures one week for delivery, I have missed the deadline, but I would have just made it if delivery took two weeks. It is not clear when the 60 days began. Was it the date the ticket was printed, mailed or received? Since I know that many people just ignore these tickets altogether, I am hoping that whoever handles the payment is willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. With the snail’s pace efficiency of the Italian bureaucracy, I know I will have to wait six months to a year before I can write this incident off as completely finished.