TRAFFIC VIOLATION SCAMS IN ITALY

Do rental car companies have to reveal customer's personal information to the police in Italy by law even if the rental agency knows it's a scam?

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3289 posts

It's not a scam. It's how many jurisdictions in Italy enforce traffic laws. You agree to allow the rental car agencies to give police your contact information when you sign the rental agreement.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2394 posts

I agree, it's not a scam. Yes, they have the right, you gave it to them when you signed the agreement.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10854 posts

It might help to tell us how you know it is a scam.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

H. Alexander, As the others have said, traffic or parking tickets in Italy (or elsewhere in Europe) are not a "scam", as these originate from local authorities. In many cases these are substantiated with photographs which document the violation. All rental agreements include a clause stating that the renter is responsible for these. There's also the question of how the rental agency is expected to know whether it's a scam or not? I'm assuming that tourists with rental cars who violate local traffic laws in Palm Harbor are expected to pay their violation tickets? Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

H. Alexander, "Many of you miss the point." You didn't provide all of the information in your initial post, so none of us here had any idea of the circumstances surrounding your violation tickets. As the others have noted, it's very common for traffic tickets (ie: ZTL tickets) to be issued "after the fact" in Italy, with the drivers receiving these several months after they return home. The laws and practices of authorities in Italy are not the same as in Mexico or other jurisdictions. For future reference, you may find it very helpful to read This Website as it has some very good information on "driving in Italy". The experiences you've described are one reason I use rental cars in Italy very "strategically", and prefer trains or Buses most of the time, as they're far less hassle. I'd be interested to know whether you had an International Driver's Permit while driving in Italy. Failure to produce an IDP if requested by Police may result in fines on the spot! Good luck getting this sorted!

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

Yes, auto rental companies are obliged anywhere (including US and Canada) to reveal details of delinquent drivers. Actually, laws on that are even harsher in US than in Italy. As for the "Italian traffic violation scams" I've read here on Helpine over the last 15 months I've been here, I'd put them in 4 categories: 1. A tiny, tiny minority of cases where there is actually a scam, but one that will likely affect Italian drivers as well. Just remember, actually, reading about it once here (and other time on Chris Elliott's website) 2. Cases in which the driver assumes traffic laws follow the same principle as in US. Believe me, I read somebody calling a scam that he had took a right turn under red traffic light and went ballistic that he was fined. Ditto for other case of lane clogging - in all Western Europe countries, you MUST use the rightmost available lane if it is empty enough for you to drive at the speed you are driving -. These are not scams, but lack of 40-70min investment on reading about European driving laws and signs. 3. Cases in which drivers willingly break the regulations and the complain as if they had been framed. Typical case: there is a forbidden parking sign (yellow circle, red border and diagonal stripe), but the driver sees other cars parked regardless. He/she assumes it is ok to break the law because "everybody else is doing it", get slapped with a fine and call enforcement a "scam", which it is not. 4. The ZTLs. ZTLs are always signed, and to get waivers, when applicable, information must be submitted by the hotel. Then, the hotel doesn't give the correct information, or the driver doesn't check up, and then blame enforcement. Not a scam, but failure by your hotel.

Posted by H. Alexander
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
12 posts

Many of you miss the point. First, the violation occurred on the busiest day of the year in Rome - March 17, the 150th Anniverary of the Unification of Italy. Streets were blocked, traffic re-routed - it was a mess with many thousands of cars parked on sidewalks, blocking streets. I saw police redirecting traffic down the wrong way on some streets. I'm sure the traffic camaras were working but not informed by the police redirecting traffic. Second, I was not in possession of the car at the time of the driving and parking violations. It was in the hands of the Hotel Trevi parking valet who (evidentally) not only parked it in the wrong place but drove in the wrong area. I paid a 50 Euro hotel parking fee for that service! I suppose had he killed someone or robbed a bank while parking the car, I'd be at fault, too. I understand the conditions of the rental agreement but question the actions of the police given the circumstances of the huge holiday traffic mess. Third, red light camera results are constantly being questioned and convictions overturned in this country. Am I to assume they are faultless in Italy. The onerous requirements set by the Perfect of Rome to appeal this violation makes it very difficult, not to mention, time-consuming and costly to challenge. Having lived in Mexico and El Salvador for over ten years and driven in most countries of Western Europe and Latin America, I've never run into this situation where I was so relentlessly pursued under such questionable circumstances. I understand Italy's poor fiscal situation, but it does leave a bad taste in one's mouth

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

@H. Alexander - if caught in your circumstances, I would have gone to hotel management and asked for reimbursement of the fine, because it was due to the actions of their valet.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2394 posts

First- what happens in the U.S. has nothing to do with what happens in Italy. They have their laws and ways of doing things and so do we. They are not always the same. I think that unless you can PROVE that it wasn't you driving the car that you will need to pay the fine. You can contact the hotel to see if there is anything you can do but ultimately you are responsible for the car you rented. Dnna

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

None of what you describe amounts to a scam, unless possibly on the part of the hotel. You said elsewhere that they charged you to research and report the parking ticket, and for the ticket. You should take that up with the hotel, and if they do not resolve it, post a review on Tripadvisor to describe your experience. As for the driving violations, how in the world can you say they did not occur while you were driving the car? You drove into Rome to reach your hotel, right? These violations occurred before you handed the car over to the valet. If your GPS led you wrong that is still your responsibility. If the police directed you the wrong way down a street to avoid barriers, you should explain that and ask to have the ticket stricken. And congratulate them on their holiday. March 17 is coming up again.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

I'm adding this to my list of "Reasons to avoid renting a car in Italy."

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10854 posts

Mr. Alexander has posted his letter to Hertz on the Tourist Scam Alert site. Big problem is that it is not scam and he is arguing with the wrong people. It is one of the reasons we often recommend not driving in the big cities. He is a victim of circumstances but it not unlike the photo radar tickets in the US. I think the argument is with the hotel and not Hertz or the police. Hertz has done nothing wrong. It is not scam. It is a legal traffic ticket issued by the Rome police. He is arguing that he was not personally served. Probably not required under Italian law. The last paragraph of his letter is just totally off the wall. Tilting with windmills. Not paying the fine only has the potential of hurting himself. Fight with right people. Get after the hotel. They are local and if anyone can have influence with the police it would be the hotel.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

I agree 100%. His issue is with the hotel, not Hertz and not the Rome traffic police. He should take it up with Hotel Trevi, and if he does not get satisfaction, post that on Tripadvisor. As for not being "personally served" with the tickets, it is surprising that someone who has himself lived outside the US for a number of years would expect US law and due process concepts to apply in Italy. "When in Rome. . ." and all that.

Posted by Eric
Dana Point
101 posts

Apparently Mr. Alexander failed to check the Hotel Trevi's website, which clearly states when describing how to reach their property by car that they are located inside a ZTL, and that "it is imperative that you contact our staff to arrange permission passes to enter PRIOR to your arrival at the hotel." Also, looking at the ZTL maps on Ron in Rome's site, the ZTL cameras are located at the boundaries of the ZTL, meaning that if, indeed, the violation occurred while the vehicle was in the possession of the hotel, it would have to have been driven out of the ZTL and then back in to have been photographed (I realize that Mr. Alexander states that this violation occurred during a time he didn't have possession of the vehicle, but he has yet to show how he knows this.) As it seems evident that Mr. Alexander had no idea about the existence of ZTL's and that he drove himself to the Hotel Trevi, me thinks he tripped a camera himself as he approached his hotel. EDIT: Taking a closer look at the location of the Hotel Trevi, it does appear to be quite close to the boundary of the ZTL, so it does seem within reason that his car could have left the ZTL to be parked and then come back in when the hotel retrieved it. However, if Mr. Alexander had notified the hotel before his arrival, this wouldn't have mattered, as his pass would have covered his entire stay at the hotel. The responsibility still falls on Mr. Alexander and, as the other posters have noted, this is in no way a scam.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

He did post a review on Tripadvisor and says "At no time was the car in our possession when the so-called violations occurred. Furthermore, we were never stopped by the police nor issued any citation while driving in or out of Rome." But you are right, he never explains how he "knows" that the ZTL violation occurred when the car was being moved by the valet. It appears it could not have. Besides, how did he get to the hotel in the first place without violating the ZTL? It sounds like he didn't know about it and therefore did not follow the instructions regarding obtaining a pass IN ADVANCE. (Do they give you somethin gto put in th ewindshield that will show up in the photo?) And for others reading this, the police do not stop you and issue a ticket when you violate a ZTL. The camera takes a photo and the driver of the car is identified by the rental agency. That doesn't make it a "scam". Just as in the US, "ignorance of the law is no excuse."

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

I was not in possession of the car at the time of the driving and parking violations. It was in the hands of the Hotel Trevi parking valet Does Hertz know about this? I thought they needed to know about all drivers and each had to be registered with appropriate payment. Can anybody drive rental cars? I don't know; it has been several years since I rented one. Those were the rules when I did it then. Have they changed?

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10854 posts

Nigel that is probably not a problem. Even in the US you have to register the drivers but there is no way to anticipate valet service. If an accident the valet is on the hook.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

I've never used valet service because I always planned ahead and avoided it. I can't believe that Hertz, or any similar, would say that a valet was unavoidable and not able to be predicted. Oh well, live and learn. That's why I come here...

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

It would be interesting to see a response to Eric's question. Did Mr. Alexander contact the hotel in advance to get a pass to drive into the restricted zone? I read his review on Tripadvisor, and see that he is accusing Hertz and Hotel Trevi of complicity in fraud. It doesn't seem likely the hotel would help him out at this point.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2394 posts

I don't think the OP contacted the hotel to get the permission needed to drive into the ZTL. This is clearly stated on the hotel website. Also, it is not the valet drivers responsibility to check this when parking the car. I'm sure the valet assumed the driver had taken care of the necessary paper work and just parked the car as normal. Whether he was driving the car or not at the time of the infraction doesn't matter if he didn't get the correct permissions for the car to be in the area in the first place. All in all, the OP should pay the fine and let it serve as a lesson learned. He should also stop trashing Italy, the Italian police, Hertz and who ever else he can think of for his mistake. Donna

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

It is a shame that people see the ZTL ticket process as a "scam." It was absolutely necessary for these cities to limit traffic in their historic centers---these areas were so choked with traffic and it was not pleasant to visit. I was reluctant to return to Florence in 2010 after several previous experiences there were marred by all the traffic right in the vicinity of the Duomo and other historic sites. As it turned out, it is no longer as much of a problem, and I have a much better opinion of Florence. Haven't been back to Rome recently, but we will go next year, and I am looking forward to it. But we won't be driving a car!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

One point to make regarding "getting a pass from the Hotel". I've seen a number of posts from travellers who thought they had a pass from Hotels in Florence, but still received ZTL violation tickets. The Hotels don't seem to always get the passes properly registered.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

I'm curious---is the pass something that you are supposed to display in your windshield? Then it would show up on the camera.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

^^ I'm (also) an Italian citizens, and opposition to ZTLs are one of the main criteria that decided my vote when I lived in Milan(o). I'd never, ever vote for candidates to the council proposing new ZTLs or new road taxes. But that is a secondary issue. Until they abolish these hideous anti- car regulations, ZTLs are signaled zones and should be respected - as much as I hate and loath them as pure anti-car bigotry.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

I'll pile on... To answer the original question and add something to it, not only is the rental company obliged to pass on your information to authorities, they charge you for it too! I'm surprised you didn't mention the charges, or perhaps you haven't noticed them yet. Such charges are in your rental agreement and are not a "scam." I agree with the others, the hotel is responsible for your car while in its custody using the valet service. If the violations occured during valet service, they should cover it. I'm not sure exactly how you prove that, but did you first contact the hotel to try and resolve it? I see others have the same complaints on TA, so perhaps the hotel is to blame. But even if so, that doesn't make parking regulations and ZTL's a "scam." Your poor review on TA is a warning to others about driving in Rome (why anyone would do this is beyond me) and using the hotel's valet service. But your really do devalue your case by screaming "scam" over standard Italian traffic laws and enforcement. Stick with your complaint over the hotel and leave the rental agency and Italian authorities out of it.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2394 posts

Douglas, the hotel may not be responsible. If the OP didn't file for the permits then it's his fault the car got ticketed. It doesn't matter who was driving. If the permits were in place neither he nor the valet would have been ticketed. It's not the responsibility of the hotel or the valet to make sure the car has the proper paperwork, that falls on the renter and the renter alone. Since we haven't heard back from H. Alexander I think this may be the case. Donna

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

A couple of further observations: We keep calling H. Alexander who posted this thread, "he". I haven't seen any evidence that "he" is "he". Most posters on this helpline use a first name or first name equivalent. Why does H. Alexander do it the other way? Is it because he/she is simply a stirrer? Given the vehemence of the first couple of posts and complete silence thereafter - is it possible that H. Alexander has thrown in their hand grenade and left the scene? Or perhaps realize that they are in the wrong?

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

He uses a different name on Tripadvisor (the most recent review of Hotel Trevi is clearly the same person talking about the same incident). But he is clearly a "he". http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/hsmithconsulsv I think he just realizes he was in the wrong by failing to get the pass from the hotel in advance like he was supposed to.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

Donna, Ken and Sasha: The OP wasn't real clear about what types of tickets he got. But it sounds for sure that he got a parking ticket at least, and probably a ZTL as well. The parking ticket would be on the hotel as he paid for valet service to park his car. Who is responsible for the ZTL violation is unknown to us. If he did not have the hotel register the car or provide a pass, that is his fault. But sometimes hotels do make mistakes or forget to register the car. Or the valet could have driven the car into another ZTL zone to park it. Or he could have gotten lost and entered a zone not permitted for. We just don't have enough info to say. I think different cities handle ZTL passes different ways. Many use license plates and the hotel is supposed to record your plate with the authorities if you notify them. Some cities may issue passes that go on the dash. I'm not sure what Rome does. There are two lessons learned from this in my mind: 1. Do not drive a car in major Italian cities like Rome or Florence. Having a car provides no real benefit and only heartache and fines.
2. If you do drive, do your homework about local laws and customs and take the necessary precautions to avoid getting snared by the traffic cameras.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

Douglas, you can get more information about what happened to them on March 17, 2011 by reading his other posts on the Helpline and his review of Hotel Trevi on Tripadvisor. It sounds like it was definitely a ZTL violation. He says on Tripadvisor, "On Feruary 20 , we recieved an official citation from the Rome Police stating that we were being fined 101.41 Euro for "driving in a limited traffic area without authorization." but he says this was AFTER he handed the car off to the valey for parking.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

" is the pass something that you are supposed to display in your windshield? No. The ZTL camera automatically takes a picture of the license plate of every car that enters the ZTL. Then the plate numbers are compared to the exemption list. If your plate is on the exemption list - because your hotel has called it in - no ticket. Each ZTL exemption is specific to a single ZTL. If you're on the exemption list for one ZTL, you could still be ticketed in others.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

I think the larger concern is what would happen if/when one returns to Italy, esp. in our increasingly cyber-connected world.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

Exhausting one's energies fretting about the consequences of ZTL citations is a waste of emotional currency for US residents as there is no jurisdictional basis for pursuing collections in the US. Italian authorities send a letter or two by regular mail and call it good. A lot of people pay, some don't, and that's the end of it. I'm not suggesting people don't pay these fines, but.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

A good way to avoid misunderstandings in regard of hotel-based exemptions for ZTLs is to ask, kindly, to the receptionist to make a print-out of the data entry of your plate on the ZTL exemption system, and give it to you. It takes 10 sec. with any web browser and any decent hotel has a printer.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

The entire country of Italy didn't treat him "shoddily." He had one unfortunate incident. To refuse to go back to such an amazing place would truly be cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

I notice that we still haven't heard back from the poster of this thread since a full 30 messages ago. It appears that all these 30 messages since have been ignored by "H. Alexander" who obviously cares not at all.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

"I think the larger concern is what would happen if/when one returns to Italy, esp. in our increasingly cyber-connected world." Not so much. US Customs at Dulles for example does not have information about an Italian tourist who didn't pay a Chicago traffic ticket several years ago. It's hard to imagine the ennui-saturated Italian customs folks are more on the ball than that, or that communication between Italian local and national agencies is any better than in the US.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

We are now moving into hypothetical arguments - rarely a productive use of time, imho.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
364 posts

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection strongly advise you to pay your traffic tickets, particularly moving violations. While unpaid tickets would not subject you to arrest unless a warrant is issued, you may be subject to a more intensive inspection if your record is not clear." In other words, nada.

Posted by richard
Des Plaines, IL, US
83 posts

I believe my Chicago suburban neighbor Douglas has left us with good advice. I have driven in Italy quite a few times without incident. I avoid driving in Rome; think all other cities are ok but still must be approached with due diligence. The only city driving woes I have ever encountered have had to do with street parking signs I simply don't understand. I combat this simply by standing there and politely asking a passerby what the sign means and inquiring if I am ok leaving my car there. I have ALWAYS gotten good advice. The only potential "scam" I have encountered is that I have read several times in the event of an accident, the "tourist" always gets the ticket and the "native" gets a pass regardless of the actual accident circumstances. I have no firsthand knowledge if this is true or not; or if it is an "urban legend." I do know this. I will be renting a car at the Rome airport this year and spending about two weeks driving around Tuscany. I will have an International Driving License and will spend an hour or so right before leaving reading up on Italian driving laws. I will not drive after having a drink and will drive defensively. I have driven a car in many European countries; I can honestly report that Italy is not really much different from any of the others. As to driving on the left side of the road in the British Isles, that is a story for another day.

Posted by beverly
lubbock, TX, United States
3 posts

This unfortunate event is not exclusive to the bigger cities. We had the same thing occur in Spoleto. We chose that city because it was smaller & centrally located to areas in Tuscany we wanted to visit. We were charged for 6 administrative fees from Hertz 2 months after returning home, but still have no idea what we did wrong. Now awaiting the "other shoe to drop", & fines from the polizia. They have 360 days to send them. Unlikely we'll be returning to Italy, & certainly won't be renting a car!

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1002 posts

The facts of this case seem a little murky to me - - did the hotel slip up? - - did the the valet commit the offense? - - was it the poster who was at fault? I have heard, more than once, of hotels failing to do the promised paperwork and tourists suffering the consequences. And, I've read that if you get lost while trying to find your hotel, thereby crossing into a different ztl, you are liable for the fine. To my mind, the lesson to be learned about driving into big European cities is just don't do it. When we rent, we always drop off our cars at airports and almost always pick up there, too. We started doing that long before ztl's became such an issue, after several incredibly frustrating experiences with trying to find in-city return locations. Airports usually have easy public transport options; and, even if you have to use a taxi at some point, you potentially save the cost of fines.

Posted by Gerard
Temora, NSW, Australia
172 posts

Toughen up, pay the fine, and stop trying to justify this by claiming its a scam. Get over yourself. Write (in Italian) to the the agency who issued the fine identifying you claims. Those that suggest not paying, should remember the posts of debt recovery callers in perhaps another twelve months, where the fine gets further charges, so expect more gripping of more "scams". How may posts recommend do not to drive in Italian Cities!!
You didn't listen ...

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

People - this thread is a year old and got bumped by someone not paying attention. Please actually read the thread before posting responses. The original poster is probably long gone...