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Is this a scam with Locauto rental company in Italy

I rented a car through Carental.com that assigned me Locauto in Florence, Italy. Car was great, service was great. About nine months after returning the car I started getting e-mails from Locauto indicating that authorities issued a violation ticket for the car during my rental period and they are charging 48.80 euros ($65) service charge on my credit card for providing the authorities with my information and address. I never received a ticket, was never stopped by the police, never parked iligally, always paid more then required at parking meters. I started looking into the details, started a dispute with the credit card company, tried without success to contact Locauto. A couple of days later two more e-mails arrived with two different "tickets" and two more $65 charges. At this time I put Locauto on my spam list and cancelled my credit card so I don't know how many more of these "tickets" are coming. As of now, I have not received anything from the Italian authorities or police about these tickets.
Has anybody else ran into anything similar? Is this a scam by the rental company? Is $65 (at least 3 times) reasonable service charge for giving the info to authorities?
Appreciate any feedback
Thank you,
Paul

Posted by
3684 posts

If it is anything like France, you will get dinged the "info" charge for every infraction. The info price is similar to what we were charged in France.

I have read here that it can take a very long time to get your ticket(s) in the mail from the Italian authorities who issued them.

It took 2 years for us to get one from Switzerland, that bastion of efficiency. At least the French followed up within a couple of months of our return and we could pay online with a CC. The Swiss made us do an electronic transfer to a special account which cost more than the ticket itself.

And you could have gotten zapped by a camera without a clue that you did anything wrong, like speeding or driving into a ZTL. When you get the actual tickets, you will likely find out the details.

Here's hoping the fines aren't too steep.

Posted by
16883 posts

Yes, as Lo said, this does sound consistent with other forum contributor's experience, that the charges are valid and the tickets very slow to arrive. See, for instance, https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/will-traffic-tickets-from-italy-be-charged-to-your-credit-card.

Rick's version is at http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/driving-europe-tips and http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/driving-mishaps.

Posted by
21718 posts

Since this is a duplicate questions with responses running in the Italy section of Q and A. You are being hit with moving violations - either speeding or illegal street usage - TLZ zones, bus lanes, etc. All most every town has a speed camera at the town boundary so you need to under the speed limit when you hit the edge of going in. The fines by the time they arrive will be around 100 to 200 Euro each. The police will not charge your credit card because they don't have that information. The rental company is legally required to respond to each inquiry for a name and address. The rental company does not keep track of how many tickets you receive. The $65 is higher than has been previously reported and probably is unreasonable but there is little that you can do about. Disputing with your credit card company is a losing effort because I am sure you agreed to the administrative charge in the fine print. Cancelling the card doesn't solve the either. You should provide remove them from you spam folder since that is the equal to putting your head in the sand. You will have to decide how you want to handle the fines when they arrive. There have been reports of the fines being turned over to US collection agencies in the US. Good luck.

Posted by
31471 posts

paul,

As the others have indicated, this is most likely not a "scam". It sounds like you incurred three violations, and the rental firm levied three charges for providing your information to the authorities. There's always a clause in the rental agreements that states "the renter agrees to pay all traffic violations" so when you signed on the dotted line, you agreed to that.

The violations could have been speed offenses, however as you rented the car in Florence these were more likely Zona Traffico Limitato violations (driving through a restricted traffic area). Florence is just about locked down tight with automatic cameras, and they may even have a photo of your smiling countenance as you went through the camera. Your experience seems to follow the usual pattern in the way traffic violations involving foreigners are handled in Italy.

It's possible that the actual tickets could take up to a year to arrive. Watch your mail for an envelope from "European Municipality Outsourcing". If you don't deal with those in a timely manner, that may be followed by letters from U.S.-based collection agencies. By the time you receive all the paperwork, it will be too late to contest the fines.

Good luck!

Posted by
4535 posts

I'm sorry you cancelled your card before checking around. It will not stop legitimate charges from the rental company and now makes even more hassle for you to deal with.

Traffic violations are a dime a dozen when driving in Italy. Cameras are everywhere and you will get dinged for every violation. The ZTL's are especially notorious and will ding you every time you drive past a camera in the zone.

Check you rental agreement and you will almost for sure find that you agreed to be charged an administrative fee for the rental agency to supply your contact info to the authorities. It may seem excessive, but such fees are always a profit center for rental agencies. And you get charged for every referral.

As the others have noted, the charges from the rental agency are a warning to expect a ticket sometime in the future. Could be a month, could be six months or even a year. People that have not paid them have reported that they can be turned over to collection agencies.

Posted by
9110 posts

It's legit. You screwed up. Then you compounded it. Good luck.

Posted by
12917 posts

I've never (so far) gotten a fine in Italy with a rental car (many with my own) but last month I purposely read the small print in the rental contract when I rented a car (with Europcar) at Malpensa airport. There is in fact a clause (among many others) which states that you are responsible for any administrative fees for providing the authorities with your name and address in case of traffic violations recorded by cameras.

As mentioned above, Italy is full of cameras used to record various traffic violations without the presence of any police officer:
1. Street light violations
2. Speed violations
3. ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone) Incursions (these are zones in the historical centers where traffic is restricted to residents and/or emergency vehicles only)

Speed violations recorded via the Autovelox machine cameras are set generally at 5km/h above the speed limit, since the speed limit in built up area is 50 km/h if you drove at 55 km/h and there was an Autovelox Camera Recorder around, you got zapped.

Also if you were driving on the motorways, you might have been zapped by the Speed Tutor System (which is everywhere on freeways). This latter system takes pictures of all cars at various intervals (every 5 or 10 km), then a supercomputer pairs all photos with the same license plate and calculates the average speed cars sustained in that segment based on the time it took each car to cover that segment. If the calculated average speed of a car for that segment is above the speed limit, that car gets fined, even though it might have been driving below the speed limit at the time the photos are taken. If your avg speed limit goes above the speed limit in more than one segment, you get separate fines.

Posted by
21718 posts

Wow, is that sneaky. Just another set of reasons not to rent a car in Italy. But that also explains why everyone was driving so orderly on the express ways. We had commented on how there appear to be none of the craziness we see on our Interstate system.

Posted by
31471 posts

@Frank,

Yes, that's definitely sneaky and the Speed Tutor System is probably not something the average tourist would be aware of. I wonder how long before law enforcement in this part of the world implements something like that? Isn't technology wonderful!

The Tutor system is not a new idea. It operates on basically the same principle as the VASCAR system that was invented in about the mid-60's. The technology that provides automatic license plate recognition has simply automated the process. The main issue with VASCAR was that it depended on the officer operating switches at precise moments, which made his/her timing subject to review in court. That's probably why it's not used more.

Posted by
1345 posts

As a note, average speed cameras like the Italian Tutor system are increasingly common across Europe. The UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have them as well as Italy, and I think they are also used in Austria.

Posted by
5697 posts

So the message is -- when driving in Europe, obey the posted speed limits. Not a bad idea at home, either. Whether or not there's somebody watching.

Posted by
1 posts

Just received a "ticket" in the mail saying I was in a restricted zone 7 months ago. If don't remember going through any restricted zones, and will pay if I did.

Since this violation was caught on camera, shouldn't they provide a photo or website of the photo to verify that it was actually me.

Because according to the time of violation, I wasn't driving. I passed the ticket onto the driver who had the car during the violation time. But he doesn't recall going into any restriction zones and refuses to pay.

Again, if they provide me evidence such as a photo of me driving into the restricted zone, I have no reason not to pay it. There is a big sticker identifying the vehicle as a rental car, so it is more exposed to scam artists.

I rented the car in my name and already had the admin fee, which seems excessive, charged onto my card from Locauto .

Bottom line, in the States. it is the driver who is responsible for all moving violations, but not sure in Italy. Am I liable for the alleged fine if I wasn't driving. In other words, can I just ignore this if the driver is?

Tom

Posted by
8401 posts

That's between you and your buddie, but the bottom line is that the car was in your name. If he was driving but wan't registered on the contract, that will cause an even bigger problem between you and the rental company. It's your responsibility.

Posted by
27720 posts

This thread was started in July by a different OP.

Posted by
4535 posts

Bottom line, in the States. it is the driver who is responsible for all moving violations,

Every state sets its own laws, but most states charge the owner of the vehicle for camera-enforced traffic violations. It's up to the owner to get reimbursed by the driver if they were to ones to commit the violation.

Posted by
3304 posts

Paul,
Just one further (bad news) point. Cancelling a credit card doesn't absolve you from paying charges that later appear. You can dispute them, but lots of luck with that. You probably don't want to get involved with not paying off charges on an American credit card.

Posted by
2829 posts

What is sneaky about section-control (the Tutor system mentioned above)?

I find it a far more honest and effective way to enforce speed limits than fixed-point radar-based cameras that measure speed at a single spot, which then everybody knows where it is located (especially in this age of Waze, TomTom and other collaborative tools), braking near the camera and just going above the speed limit after that point.

Controlling average speed over logner sectors (these can be 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10km) is nothing sneaky as it forces the drivers to behave in the expected way: driving at, or below, the speed limit, instead of treating it as a mere suggestion.

Highway and expressway speed limits in Italy are generally quite high.