Anyone who cheats the toll in Hungary must expect high additional charges and, as the vehicle owner, may also be asked to pay for it. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe declared the amount of the fines, which can be a multiple of the actual costs for the toll vignette, to be legal in principle. According to the Senate when the verdict was announced, keeper liability is also compatible with domestic law.
The car rental company Hertz had defended itself against a lawsuit by the Hungarian Autobahn Inkasso based in Eggenfelden. The debt collection company collects the toll debts on behalf of the Hungarian road company in Germany - a procedure that is quite common according to ADAC information. Hertz should pay almost 1000 euros plus additional costs because their own rental cars had been on Hungarian motorways five times in November 2017 without a vignette. According to local law, the vehicle owner is responsible for this.
Among other things, Hertz considered the amount of the additional claims and also the owner liability to be inadmissible and did not pay. The debt collection company then sued and was successful in the lower court. The BGH also agreed with the collection agency. Hertz initially did not want to comment on this when asked.
Holder liability also exists in German law
The presiding judge, Hans-Joachim Dose, explained that the fact that a vehicle owner must be liable is not alien to German law. In this country, for example, owners of vehicles that are illegally parked in a private car park can be prosecuted. The amount of the additional demands for a vignette that has not been purchased is also not objectionable. After all, this only happens if violations are not paid on time. In addition, there are also hefty flat fees in Germany - for example, if you are caught on the bus or train without a ticket.
In order to be allowed to drive on Hungarian motorways and certain expressways, travelers must purchase an electronic vignette ("e-Matrica") in advance. The license plate is checked. According to ADAC data, the toll for a week costs 3820 forints this year. That's the equivalent of almost 10 euros.
If a car is caught without an e-vignette, a so-called basic replacement toll is initially due, which is five times the original toll. The owner of the vehicle is responsible for this. If he does not pay within 60 days, it will be significantly more expensive. Then the Hungarian toll ordinance provides for an "increased additional fee" amounting to 20 times the amount.
Court refers defendant to customer
At the hearing three weeks ago, the BGH Senate made it clear that it considers the Hungarian approach to be legal. Hertz could get the money back from its customers, the actual toll dodgers. A judge had suggested purchasing the e-vignette in advance for journeys to Hungary and adding the costs to the rental price.
The judgment of the lower court was nevertheless overturned on Wednesday and the case was referred back to the Frankfurt Regional Court. Actually, debts in a foreign currency must also be sued in this currency. In Frankfurt, however, the euro had been used. The regional court must now examine again whether Hungarian law allows this. (Az. XII ZR 7/22)