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Italy ZTL scams?

Hello,
After a very nice trip I had in Italy in August 2016, I got four ZTL violation notifications from the car rental agency Avis in Linate, Milan airport. At first, I thought they are legitimate ones and I blamed myself for not paying enough attention to Italy's rules.
But when I started to do some research, it turns out they are not quite legit.

I got two ZTL violations for August 21st, 2016, which was a Sunday, in Milan. It's true that we used the car to get from our hotel in Milan to Lake Como and back that day, but it's also true that the ZTL limitations are only from Monday to Friday. Then, why did we still get the fine?

I also got a ZTL violation for Florence, on August 22nd. In Florence we parked the car for 4 days in the west part of the city (Via del Sansovino, 53), way far from the ZTL zone and we arrived there coming from Pisa, around 10.30 pm, a time which is also not in the ZTL violation time window (that ends at 8 pm). There was not even a remote possibility for us to go through a TZL zone in Florence whatsoever.

Does anybody have an explanation for these violations, other than a scam?

We opened a dispute with the credit card for the four notifications that we got so far (42 euros per notification, automatically withdrawn from the credit card we used to rent the car), and I expect some other notification as well.
I plan to appeal at least the three notifications that I described above, do you think that it's possible?

Thank you,
Laura

Posted by
20954 posts

Good luck. You probably will lose on the charge for the notifications as you agreed to that in the docs you signed for the car rental. And it is per inquiry from the police to id the car driver. It is a separate issue from the traffic violation. Even if the traffic violation was invalid the notification charge is not.

Do you have the actually tickets so you can verify dates and times? Generally these are camera tickets. That makes it hard to deny.

Posted by
5 posts

I don't have the actual tickets yet. Just a paper from Avis that informs us about the violation. And because we stayed in Milan for only 2 nights (Saturday evening to Monday morning), and the paper states that the violation was on 21st of August, a Sunday, I think the time is not at all relevant. Even if they have our picture on the camera, Sundays are NOT in the ZTL restriction time window.
If the notification had been dated for 22nd or later, it would have been a possibility that the violation occurred on Monday morning. But these notifications cannot be pre-dated.
And I don't think that the rental agency should charge me for a notification for a violation that was not legit.

In Florence, things are even clearer for me. Don't you agree that Via del Sansovino, 53 is not in the ZTL zone? I found the parking receipt, proving that I parked the car at 10.21 pm. I can also prove that I was in Pisa around 7pm, so I couldn't have been in Florence before 8 pm the same day to violate their ZTL time window.

So, my point is the rental agency should not charge me for invalid violations, no matter what paper I signed.

Posted by
18087 posts

I don't know how it will go with an Italian car-rental office, but I once got Enterprise in the US to waive the (much lower) admin fee I was charged for going through a toll plaza without paying. They were doing road work at the time, and all traffic was being routed around the toll gates; they just hadn't turned off the cameras.

Does the initial notice specifically indicate that those were ZTL violations as opposed to something else? People have reported receiving tickets for driving in bus lanes, too.

Posted by
20954 posts

I know you are eager to grasp at straws. In the US culture we tend to think that any technical error gets us off the hook. Too much TV. The rental company has no way to judge the validity of the tickets. All they know is that they received an inquiry from the police about who was driving their vehicle at a certain day and time. They charge an administrative fee to look up that information and forward it to the Italian authorities. And you contractual agreed to pay that fee. It is in your rental agreement, look it up. That is going to be impossible to dispute.

As for the violations you don't really know until you get the tickets to see the precise time and date of the violation. Then you can start arguing if it is valid or not or if you have a defense. The rental company is not a judge.

This is frustration enough for you without raising false targets. If you haven't seen the violations then you have no idea if valid or not. Take it a step at a time. There have been reports of the inquire fee but no follow up tickets.

PS - Use the search function here and you will read many discussions about the infamous TLZones of Italy. And there are many other ways to get tickets other than TLZs. Bus lanes are restriction and I don't think time limits apply to bus lanes. You need to know what you are arguing about. There is no scam. Don't let your zeal for a scam impair your judgement.

Posted by
1143 posts

Did the notification from the car rental agency specify these were ZTL. There are lots of speeding cameras in the area. I agree with others. You will have to wait for the tickets. However I do hope someone responds with how to dispute the ticket if you disagree since that was your original question.

Posted by
5 posts

All 4 notifications from the rental agency specify this:

ART. ZONA A TRAFFICO LIMITATO
ART. Regarding the reason of the fine, please wait for the fine that the authority will resend to you.

I think that even without the actual ticket, "ZONA A TRAFFICO LIMITATO" is clear enough.
I also got a confirmation from the hotel in Milan that due to low season, the ZTL does not apply in month of August.

I don't want to raise false targets as somebody suggested, for me it's a question of fairness. I'm an experienced traveler and I always comply with the rules of the places I visit, but I never encountered such thing.

I will update to topic once I get the actual tickets, but I plan on writing to the city email addresses specified in notifications to inquire about the alleged violations.

Posted by
1005 posts

I'm sorry you got caught up in the ZTL web. Not sure it's a "scam" as much as it is Italian inefficiency and bureaucracy. I've found the Bella Toscana website very helpful in explaining ZTL charges and what options you have to appeal. Good luck.

Posted by
20954 posts

The point that I and others are trying to make is that you are thinking of the TLZ as a single item. It is not ----

"is a restricted traffic area in Italy. There are around 200 schemes that are enforced with cameras, plus 100 low emission zones."

It is a generic term for any place that traffic is limited or restricted for whatever reason. So you cannot assume anything from the info you currently have other than you were somewhere where you should not have been. You have to wait until you actually received formal notification as the exact nature of your violation. Until then it is only speculation.

Posted by
12115 posts

I would need to see the violation documentation received to answer with certainty however the ZTL in Milan is effective 7 days a week from 00:00 to 24:00.
http://www.comune.milano.it/wps/portal/ist/it/servizi/mobilita/Regole_permessi/Autorizzazioni_ZTL/Zona+a+traffico+limitato+Navigli

Via Sansovino is not inside the ZTL and there are no bus lanes on Viale Etruria and Viale Talenti, which you would have taken coming from Pisa, unless you traveled over the Light Rail tracks or went somewhere else. However there is a notorious Autovelox Speed Camera on Viale Etruria that generates the highest number of speeding tickets in Florence. So I wonder if the ticket in Florence is a speeding ticket.

Posted by
17863 posts

we arrived there ..., around 10.30 pm, a time which is
also not in the ZTL violation time window (that ends at 8 pm).

Do you know for sure that 8 pm is the end of the time window for that particular ZTL? I have a picture taken from the Internet of a ZTL sign that shows the time window a 7:30 - 18:30 (6:30 pm) so I think the time window varies by ZTL. But 10:30 sounds rather extreme, unless it's a 24 hr limit.

Posted by
31215 posts

I really doubt that this is a scam. Until you receive the actual violation notices, you won't have the details on which offenses you're being ticketed for. Those could take some time to arrive, and by the time you receive the tickets it may be too late to appeal. I really doubt that an appeal has much chance of success. I vaguely recall that if an appeal is unsuccessful, the amount of the fine is increased (hopefully someone else can confirm that).

If the authorities in Italy send the account to a North American-based collection agency, you can expect the costs to escalate.

Posted by
1160 posts

I do not think this is the case, but generally speaking remember that in Florence there are a few easy ways to get a ticket:

  • entering ZTL at forbidden times
  • riding on bus lanes (that have no times and are never open to general traffic); the easiest mistakes being riding the forbidden direction in via de' Panzani and via del Gelsomino
  • overspeeding - as you enter/exit the city boundaries from/to all directions your speed is metered, all radars are announced in advance with white signs

Also remember that in weekend summer nights the ZTL kicks in again at 10.30pm, during most of the night.

Posted by
255 posts

As some have said, at least in Milan there are different types of restrictions and ZTLs. Some are "active" from monday to friday 9-19:30, other, like some places in the center, Navigli and Brera, are always active. There are some streets that are only open to residents, public transportation and delivery trucks (like Corso Magenta), there are bus lanes, there is Area C... I think it's more probable that you made a mistake and entered a ZTL, than Avis or the police trying to scam you...
It is really easy to make a wrong turn, to enter a forbidden street or a bus lane, especially if you don't know the city well, it happens to locals too.

Posted by
5 posts

Update: Up to this moment (meaning 9 months after the incidents), nothing happened. Besides the fact that Avis got from us about 42$ per each notification they sent us (6 of them), we got nothing from the Italian police regarding ZTL violation. So, we ended up with a very expensive car rental :-)

Laura

Posted by
11613 posts

The charges you paid are for the information given to the police by your rental company. Expect tickets later (€80+ per).

And it's the law, not a scam.

Posted by
7204 posts

With all of the expert advice given freely in these forums of either 1) Take The Train or 2) If you Choose To Drive then Don't Drive in city centers where ZTLs will catch you...

People STILL get rental cars and STILL drive into the ZTL areas and then claim it's a scam...

Posted by
5 posts

Tim,
You probably didn't read my post carefully. I'm an experienced traveler and in Florence I parked way outside the ZTL area, and I still got a ZTL notification. In Pisa, I probably drove for 10 minutes before I parked my car, and I got two ZTLs.
Maybe they are not scams, but I'm pretty sure they are not fair, and this is another story.

Posted by
255 posts

Lcb23, even locals get ZTL fines every now and then, sometimes a street becomes ZTL from one moment to another and you can miss the sign, sometimes you can take a public transportation lane without realizing it. The cameras don't make mistakes, the fine will arrive sooner or later and you'll see where it was.

But even people who have lived in the city their entire life get fines sometimes.

Posted by
20954 posts

I thought that the camera were programmed to tell the difference between locals and tourists so that only the tourists got the tickets. That is the scam part. The cameras should be programmed to take everyone's picture/violation so that everyone is treated equal. It is unfair to just target tourists, especially American tourists.

Posted by
1181 posts

The camera are NOT programmed to photograph tourists only. They photograph all cars and then the license plates are compared to a list of those that have permission (i.e. local residents) to drive in the ZTL. Italians not living in that particular city also get cited.

Posted by
4522 posts

It may be helpful to note that this thread is 9 months old and was bumped by someone that just wanted to inquire what happened. The OP came back to report that so far no tickets have arrived. But maybe we can avoid re-litigating the whole ZTL thing and just wait for the OP to tell us whether they got any tickets in the 12 month deadline or not.

Posted by
7204 posts

Well you can't get a ZTL violation if you're not driving in a ZTL ;-)

Posted by
24820 posts

actually you can. A bus lane, for example, which is prohibited to all except authorised vehicles.

Posted by
17863 posts

But you can't get a ZTL violation if you are not driving.

Posted by
4152 posts

They have just over a year to get the fine to you. Within 90 days of the violation the authorities must notify the owners of the car. The rental company then has 60 days to respond with the information. From the date the information about who was driving is received the authorities have 360 days to mail the fine to the person who rented the car. That's 17 months total.

This isn't a scam.

Donna