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When fines are imposed by an Italian car rental agency

Here's a somewhat different spin on receiving a photo traffic ticket from Italy in the mail. In September 2019, I took a trip to Italy where I rented a car. About four months after I returned from the trip I received a notice in the mail that I had incurred a traffic ticket in one of the cities I had visited. I diligently paid this traffic fine via wire transfer within a few days and assumed that was the end of it. Then, just the other day I received an e-mail from a collection group at the agency where I rented the car stating that per the terms of my rental agreement I owed them an administrative fee for receiving the ticket. My first thought was that this was a scam but they had all the details right so I wrote back to them for more information. I asked them why I was only now hearing about this a year and a half later. I never received a bill or invoice, nor was I ever contacted about this by telephone in all that time. My questions for the group are: Has anyone ever encountered this before and what happens if I refuse to pay the fine? If the fine is legitimate I don't have any problem paying it but why has it taken this long for them to notify me? I don't think that I would be denied entry into the country on the basis of not paying it since it is not a traffic fine that is in question. My thought is, if I don't pay it, unless I rent a car in Italy there should be no further repercussions for me. As I said, if they can prove to me that the charge is legit I have no problem paying it. I am just curious as to what may happen if I choose to ignore it.

Posted by
29 posts

Here is an article from a few years ago in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ also had an article about tourists being nailed in Italy around 2014 or 2013 but I couldn’t find it. I took note because we were going to Italy and renting a car. Due diligence. I remember these articles because we got nailed for some bogus thing. We paid it. There seems to be a shake down. There is no way to get proof. We drove through out Florence without incident. Got nailed in Pisa fior being in area without a permit. I remember that moment-we made a turn and saw the sign- you have to know the signs and how to read them, but it was too late apparently. must’ve set off a camera. My advice to anyone renting a car in Europe- Know before you go. https://www.wsj.com/articles/renting-a-car-in-europe-watch-out-for-speeding-tickets-1465405665

Posted by
6971 posts

No personal experience, but the usual routine would be you would first see a charge on your credit card from the rental car company ( their service/'administrative' fee) to respond to a police query related to an infraction.

Then at some later date you would get the notice of infraction from the police agency.

In your case it seems you got the police citation first and only now is the rental company billing you their fee to respond to the police query.

I suspect the covid thing messed up business operations and they are now just catching up.

Unless you were billed an 'administrative' in the past, I suspect this is legitimate. (~30 euro?)

Posted by
2601 posts

This has happened to my husband but in France. He got a ticket in France which we received when we arrived home. About 3 weeks later, the rental car company charged the administrative fee to the credit card we used for the rental. It's supposed to happen the other way around but sometimes the ticketing authorities are faster on the draw than the rental car company. It's not a scam unless, as noted before, you have already paid the administrative fee. By any chance did you move or cancel the credit card or the card expired between the time of your trip and the time that the collection agency contacted you? Here in the US, a friend of mine rented a car and got a ticket generated by a stop light camera and then canceled the credit card for unrelated reasons. She paid the ticket and then months later a collection agency was on her like crazy to collect the fee due to Hertz. I'd treat this the way I'd treat any other legitimate dunning notice -- pay up or ignore it and accept whatever consequences happen with your credit. I've never dealt with a collection agency so I do not know if they will actually report this to the credit reporting agencies but they do have the legal right to do so.

Another thing: snail mail does get lost. I would not be so sure that the rental company never tried to contact you. I know people use lost mail as an excuse but it really does happen. A few years ago, I mailed my rent in a timely fashion but my landlord did not receive it. He contacted me and I sent a replacement check and then about 6 months later he stopped by to apologize -- it turned out that the check had been delivered to his neighbor's mailbox who, in turn, had forgotten to give him the envelope. Two days ago, a returned letter that I had not sent was in my mailbox. It should have been returned to the neighbor across the street. I brought it over but someone else might not do that.

Posted by
12063 posts

If you already pay the fine, then this one is just the administrative fee rental cars charge to communicate the name of the driver to the authorities. That administrative fee ranges from 30 to 45 euro. Generally they charge your credit card at the time they receive notification of the fine by the police. It’s a legitimate charge and if it’s in the range I mentioned above I would just pay it. If you don’t pay, since it’s a contractual obligation you agreed to when you signed the rental agreement they could give it to a collection agency and report it to a credit bureau if you don’t pay. Fines by the police are not reported to the credit bureaus in the US since a class action lawsuit 5 years ago (see below) because fines are not the result of a contract you agreed to. However the admin fee to the rental car company is something you agreed to and therefore if they pass on that debt or a collection agency they could report the unpaid debt to a credit bureau and lower your credit score.

https://accountcontrol.com/News-Resources/Unpaid-Tickets-Traffic-Violations-Are-No-Longer-Reportable

Posted by
11904 posts

You consent to the administrative fee when you sign thevrental car contract, whether you know it or not. It is there if you read through things. The fee is for the rental car's time in providing your name and address to the police where the traffic camera offense occurred so they can send you a ticket. Normally, you would see the charge forvthe admin fee on your credit card statement first, and then the ticket months later.

Since you apparently were not charged the admin fee originally, I wonder if your credit card company might have declined the charge. Or perhaps you discontinued that card, and it could not be charged? Or there was a fraud alert on your card and you received a new one with a different number? There are various ways this can happen, and will be legitimate.

Posted by
1856 posts

There seems to be a shake down. There is no way to get proof.

You received registered a letter with a link to a website where you can see a pic of your car passing under the camera. That pic and its availability online are considered a proof and a way to get it. If you did not receive such a letter with a link, the fine is invalid and you can refuse to pay.

As a side note, you are not fined when you see the only sign. You are fined when you ignore the first warning sign that's 80 meters (or more) before the camera and then you drive past also the second sign that's just under the camera. Cameras are set to take pics only when a car is already 20 meters inside the prohibited area. One of my Windows is 2 meters above a ZTL camera.

Posted by
2226 posts

what happens if I refuse to pay the fine?

"Fee" is the term that should be used here, but to answer the question...

  1. A collection item will be added to your credit report, hurting your credit score
  2. The company will likely put you on their "Do Not Rent" list (you are probably already on it)

If the fine is legitimate I don't have any problem paying it but why
has it taken this long for them to notify me?

I like Lola's answer.

Posted by
1729 posts

As others have reassured you, it is a legitimate fine charged by the agency for providing your details. As to why it took so long, you will likely never know. It IS frustrating that these companies offer so little information or assistance in trying to suss these things out, but I don't think there is any reason to not rent a car in Italy because of it--think of what you would miss out on for a silly fine that is affordable for anyone who can travel internationally.

Posted by
5502 posts

Just noting that it took 9+ months for our postcards from Italy to make it here.

Posted by
1480 posts

Just to muddy the latte, there is a concept called "zombie debt" where less than honest collection companies buy up lists of alleged debts and just start sending our letters. I guess it's the robocall theory, most will just hang up but every once in a while someone will pay. I had this happen to me about a doctor bill and it could have been legit, so I asked for proof and never heard back.

Posted by
1137 posts

Ignore it - nothing will happen. The rental agency sold the debt for a few pennies on the dollar to a scavenger collection agency that has no hold on you. The original credit card authorization to the car rental company which granted the right to charge your credit card expired after one year per the Visa / Mastercard rules.

Posted by
5502 posts

. . . but that doesn't mean it wasn't a legitimate charge to begin with.

Posted by
6971 posts

I received an e-mail from a collection group at the agency where I rented the car stating that per the terms of my rental agreement I owed them an administrative fee for receiving the ticket

I read this to mean the "collections dept." of the rental car company, not an independent collection agency.

The advice to 'ignore it', may lead the rental car agency to put OP on a 'do not rent' list due to an unpaid charge. ( Or the next time he rents from them they will tack on the charge, plus interest, plus some additional 'administrative' fee.)

Posted by
4521 posts

Just to reiterate - this is a "fee" not a "fine." Whether you pay it or not is between you and the rental agency - or the collections agency now handling it.

Personally, if my credit card had remained active after the rental, then I would dismiss this as a nuisance. The rental agency should have charged your card directly, which is what is typically done. If they did not, and there was no valid reason that they could not, then it is their problem that they did not do it. The collections agency will face their own reckoning: for such a small amount, it really isn't worth it to them to pursue it. And it is unlikely that they will post it to the credit bureaus: that takes time and documentation and involves a foreign entity. And if you don't rent from that same agency in Italy ever again, there will be no repercussions from that.