Switzerland fighting parking tickets from overseas

About a year ago while staying in a hotel in the town of Basel-Stadtm I received a parking ticket. Since the ticket was partly the hotel's fault (hotel clerk assured my I was allowed to park there), the hotel promised to take care of the ticket. However, the hotel failed to keep their promise and sometime later (back in the US), I began receiving notices from "Justiz-und Sicherheits department Services" to pay $60 fine. Eventually, after I could not get the hotel to pay, I sent in the $60 payment but the check came back. By the time the new check cleared I had accumulated additional fees (around $200). My questions are: (1) What is the proper method for appealing the additional fees? (2) To what extent can the fees continue to grow if unpaid? and (3) to what extent will not paying the fines effect my next trip to Europe (Switzerland included)?

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Hi Dan, Sorry to hear of your difficulties. Here is my opinion: 1) In Switzerland we have civil law as opposed to common law in the USA, that means that we go by the strict letter of the law and judges do not have much scope for taking your circumstances into account. So I don't see much chance for an appeal on late payment fees... For this kind of thing one would normally just go to the court and make your case, but since you are not here, I guess you'd need a lawyer..... So I expect it is cheaper to just pay the fees. 2) The thing about the Swiss administration is that it will mindlessly plough on, so fees will continue to mount up until a custodial sentence becomes an option! If you search the forum, you should find a similar thing happened to someone who visited Germany. 3) It is really very hard to say - if they don't stop you them probably nothing. If stopped by the Swiss, they might just make you pay the fees or on the other hand they might refuse you entry and ban you from entering the Schengen area for a period, meaning that you would be unable to visit most of western Europe. I've never heard of anyone letting it go this far, but if a warrant was issued for your arrest, then that information would be available to all European law enforcement agencies..... My advice would be to pay the fine as soon as possible to prevent it going any further and then see what you can do about getting something back from the hotel.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

By the way, cashier's cheques are rarely, if ever, accepted in Europe. I've never paid a traffic ticket in Switzerland, but usually in others countries, you pay by electronic transfer. This is a little more difficult to arrange with a US account, so you will need to call your bank and pay by wire. The account information should be on the ticket.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

My heavens it is a parking ticket. At what point will your email be read and your phone tapped. PEOPLE TOLD YOU NOT TO RENT A CAR IN THE FIRST PLACE. Now look what you did. BANNED FROM EUROPE

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

By the way, cashier's cheques are rarely, if ever, accepted in Europe. I've never paid a traffic ticket in Switzerland, but usually in others countries, you pay by electronic transfer. This is a little more difficult to arrange with a US account, so you will need to call your bank and pay by wire. The account information should be on the ticket. Very true, I don't think I've seen a cheque over here in at least 10 years!

Posted by Dan
New York
3 posts

Thank you guys for your input. Before I decide on whether to submit to the mindless bureaucracy or hold on to my money and risk whatever the Swiss authorities may throw at me, I wanted to see if anyone can shed some light on how the appeals process would technically play-out. Legal argument aside, how much would a local attorney charge? are there court fees involved? and what other expenses might I incur? By the way, I noticed that although they accepted the check for $60, they charged almost $9 in processing fees (it could be a conversion charge), so wiring the money is definitely the way to go.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Hey Dan. Just got back from France and Germany. We did not get stopped at passport control in FRA for a traffic ticket. I think i got one in Budapest three years ago. Got a letter from I think Avis saying i got it. I don't remember getting it but it was raining hard the whole time in Budapest and the wind blowing very hard at times. Remember Switzerland is not in the Schengen. or they were not 6 years ago. And you probably do not want to hire a Swiss. lawyer. i am an american one and i charge 250 an hour. A Swiss one will be way more expensive i am sure.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Dang did not know that. Thanks. Ok now I can tell my wife I was wrong. Only once though.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Remember Switzerland is not in the Schengen. or they were not 6 years ago. And you probably do not want to hire a Swiss. lawyer. i am an american one and i charge 250 an hour. A Swiss one will be way more expensive i am sure. Well first of all we are part of the Schengen Agreement and furthermore through bilateral agreements we are also part of Europol and all the other European law enforcement agencies.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Dan, I think you'd have a very hard job to even get a lawyer to take this on because there is nothing to dispute at this stage: - The car was parked illegally - You were in charge of the car - The ticket was not paid on time
So there really is no case under civil law, unlike the common law you have in the USA. All your issues with the hotel and so on will not be taken into account because they have nothing to do with the actual offence from a civil point of view. Your problems with the hotel are a different issue and you could probably take them to court in order to get them to compensate you for the fines you had to pay. If you do manage to get a lawyer to take this on, then I'd expect initial fees of around CHF 1,500 or so paid up front. Because civil law is very rule based, lawyers rarely get involved private matters, but when they do it is costly, which is why most Swiss citizens take out instance against such an event, myself included!

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Dan, that fine is a relatively low one. A friend of mine ignored (willingly) a parking restriction in St. Gallen, his car was towed, fines+fares = 500 CHF (to be paid before he could retrieve the car). On fairness, Swiss road signaling is quite good. Places where you are not allowed to park are usually well signed, including the blue/yellow/white parking markings.

Posted by Dan
New York
3 posts

Thank you all for the feedback. But does anyone happen to know how much higher the fines can continue to grow, if unpaid? Started at $60 and then they added $218 in additional fees. Can they really continue to increase the sum?

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

This thread really piqued my curiosity. First of all, the replies are very well written and give excellent advice. Still, it appears that you seem intent on not paying the fine and are mainly concerned with the fees continuing to escalate so that you would face a much higher fine if you are ever actually caught and forced to pay. Second, I did a bit of reading on other forums, and a couple impacts were mentioned. Because the hotel (apparently) had your credit card number, the authorities could simply charge the amount to your card through the hotel records. If that happens, you could perhaps use the credit card dispute process to dispute payment of the extra fees. Another possible impact is that you could face not being able to rent a car again in Switzerland (or anywhere else in Europe) if the rental car company gets notified of the unpaid fine and marks their records to raise a flag should you attempt to rent from them again under the same credentials. My Mom always told me. "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face." You broke Swiss parking regulations and got dinged. Be a good travel citizen and pay up. :)

Posted by Darla
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, U.S.A.
376 posts

A friend of mine had a unpaid ticket from several years ago. He flew into Zurich last year and was not allowed into the country until he paid the ticket and fines. I would just pay it.