Federal Court of Justice: High additional toll claims from Hungary are probably permissible

If you cheat the toll in Hungary, you have to reckon with an additional charge that is up to 20 times higher - and that is most likely also legal by German standards.

Federal Court of Justice: High additional toll claims from Hungary are probably permissible

If you cheat the toll in Hungary, you have to reckon with an additional charge that is up to 20 times higher - and that is most likely also legal by German standards. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has no fundamental concerns about the system, as became apparent on Wednesday in the hearing of a model case. After preliminary consultations, the judges see no violation of the German legal system, said the chairman Hans-Joachim Dose in Karlsruhe. The verdict is to be announced on September 28th.

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. The fees valid until the end of 2021 are still listed on the official website. At that time, only 16,220 forints (currently the equivalent of a good 40 euros) and after 60 days 64,850 forints (a good 160 euros) were due.

Dunning procedure via a German collection agency

The dunning procedure runs through a German debt collection company, the Ungarische Autobahn Inkasso based in Eggenfelden. This is correct, and "there is no fraud here," as the ADAC clarifies. Because: "Those affected are often irritated by the type of collection," explains a spokesman. Additional toll claims from collection service providers played a major role in the legal advice provided by the motorists' club. "Italy, Austria and Hungary are among the top 3."

According to the ADAC, a Hungarian peculiarity is the amount of the additional demand. The BGH should not call the plan. Judge Dose pointed out that the maximum amount is only due if the lower additional fee is not paid in good time. So there is a certain amount of fault. He also reminded of the German rules for fare dodgers: Anyone who is caught on the bus or train without a ticket must also pay a flat rate of 60 euros.

In the Karlsruhe proceedings, the car rental company Hertz resists being asked to pay for toll violations by customers. Lawyer Siegfried Mennemeyer said that in no other European country with road tolls is the owner solely liable. In other processes with significantly more cases, Hertz is faced with claims in the six-digit range because of this regulation. They would be willing to release the data of the toll dodgers to Hungary.

Richter: Buy an e-vignette in advance

The highest civil judges of the BGH did not seem to be convinced. Dose said Hertz could of course get the money back from its customers. A judge suggested purchasing the e-vignette in advance for journeys to Hungary and adding the costs to the rental price.

The specific case, which involves five violations in November 2017, will probably still be referred back to the Frankfurt district court. The judges there had also said that Hertz had to settle the additional claims. However, debts in foreign currency must always be sued for in this currency, and in Frankfurt they had worked with euros. The regional court would therefore have to re-examine whether the Hungarian legal bases of the toll permit this. But that would only be a side issue.

According to information from the ADAC, there were also problems with the Hungarian toll for a while because number plates were not recorded correctly and there were, for example, transposed digits or country codes mixed up. The staff is now better trained. "And many things can now be applied for online."

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