Old Traffic fines haunt after 6 six years

Rashmi

New member
I need your help with a very old issue of carhire from AVIS traffic fine which happened in June 23rd 2016 at 22.22 hours.

I was visiting Italy and Florence on June 23 2016 and hired the car from AVIS and apparently I was issued a Traffic violation for using a reserved lane dated 8th of August or 10th of October 2016( there are numerous dates on the traffic ticket letter which is more confusing). As I was in-between moving home, I may have missed this traffic ticket letter and AVIS had fined me 42 Euros for sharing this info with the traffic police of Firenze on 19.09.2016. I did ask AVIS to provide me an evidence of the traffic rule violation and they didn't get back. However, from the AVIS admin fee receipt, I extracted the email address of police municipal( pm.contravvenzioni@comune.fi.it ) and wrote ON 19.09.2016 to the mentioned email address asking to provide the evidence of the so called traffic fine that i may expect as notified by AVIS . After numerous email attempts to the email address, i never got any reply back and this issue went silent as I was changing jobs and location. Now after 6 years, I am contacted by a Debt collector agency with a fine of 390 pounds to pay regarding the violation. This was shocking. I emailed debt agency person to share the photos of me breaking the rule as I had never seen any proof. They only shared the photo of the pic which mention Thursday 23.6.2016 22.22 pm with the rear pic of the hired car and the registration number along with a ticket fine letter issued by Traffic Police, Florence regarding driving on reserved lane. So I have replied them that from ZTL website, the active times are 7 am to 8pm Monday to Sunday and I was well after the active times. I have also asked them which lane or Zone or sector and they have replied to me saying that ZTL active times is always active for reserved lanes and the times limit- do not apply ! the reserved lane is on VIA SENESE which I had to take late at night as google suggested me that route to get to my hotel accommodation on Via Palazzuolo 71 from Sienna late night. I think google maps may not be very accurate, but they are atleast reliable and correct in EU or UK regarding reserved lanes. Am I correct in this view? My entire journey i have looked out for traffic signs and ZTL and had been cautious. Does the reserved lane on VIA SENESE have any time restrictions ? If anyone here know about this, please I will very much indebted to you for the help.
After being in contact with debt agency, who is not very helpful in providing any further info to close this matter-is only keen on collecting the enormous amount of this fine, which was never notified to me with any warning during these years between June 2016 to Jan 2022.
I have tried to speak with Traffic Police Florence regarding my issue, but they hardly understand my concern and asked me to write an email. As per the police officer advise, I have written an email on 24 Jan but there is no response from them at all.
The debt collector is sending email regarding the payment, if not the case will move to the UK itseems. Is anyone aware any such instance ?
Can anyone experienced the same as me and would be kind to please share your ideas/comments on how to get this issue closed. I have tried everything in my hands from contacting the debt collector to provide further info on how to deal/close this matter without paying that hefty amount as I do not feel guilty of this violation as I was never contacted before, and also in contacting the Traffic Police and emailing them with no reply and even talking to National Debtline in the UK.I am left with no solution in sight as this traffic law is in Italy and people in the UK are not aware of how to proceed with this.
If any of you are aware or have ideas on proceeding with next steps, please kindly share all your suggestions.
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Rashami,

Welcome to the forum! Wish you were here seeking assistance in planning a future trip - hopefully, that might still happen, right? ;-)

Unfortunately, its true that reserved lanes don't have a time clock on them so don't shut off in the evenings. It is clear I will have to create some type of map of the center of Florence that marks the streets you can actually use to enter the center, marking the reserved lanes (used by buses, ambulances and taxi cabs) as not appropriate entrances. I will share this on the website since I do have lots of info on the ZTL and also include the reserved lanes in there but they might not get as much publicity and thus are not as widely known as being traps.

As for your fine, I believe the most important thing is to figure out WHEN the debt collecting agency got the debt/request from Florence asking for help in collecting. You say you got a letter from them from the first time ever this January 2022? If they only moved now in January 2022, it's too late!

Because whether you got the original fine or not back when it was sent in August 2016 doesn't matter for Italy. After 5 years, Italian law says the city can no longer collect if it hasn't yet been paid as long as they didn't send requests for payment in those 5 years.
However, if Florence contacted the agency within those five years, then the city gets a full extra year to collect. At least this is my understanding but I am not an expert in this.

If the city actually "sold" your debt to an international agency, which it seems to have done considering you are being contacted for a fine in pounds and not euro, I am not sure at this point whether your fine/debt is now in the UK and what that means for you.

For information for anyone reading this:
For violations where the "transgressor" lives abroad and was using a car rental, the normal 90 days time frame for mailing a fine is extended to 360 days from the time the police get the relevant info from the car rental agency in order to be able to contact you.
So dates are important.

I just found this page https://italianviaggio.com/italian-traffic-fines-a-complete-guide-to-fight-your-ticket/ that has a LOT of info on how to fight a ticket. Had you already found it and read it? The part towards the end is interesting about contesting in an Italian court, which makes it seem like it might turn out to be more expensive to get a lawyer involved than paying the fine. The part that I find difficult to figure out in your case is whether the debt collector agency in the UK actually has any rights in getting this money from you after all these years, because in terms of Italian law, it would seem that the time has run out. You mention a debt hotline you called, do they have legal experts on this? Especially now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, I am wondering whether what you actually need to find out is whether this UK agency is "real" or trying to con you into paying something you no longer owe.

Unfortunately, you aren't the first to write to us about ZTL fines... but the reserved lanes haven't come up before, so you offer me something to write on to offer more tips about the dangers of driving into the historical center. I am very sorry you are having to deal with this after so many years, what a headache!! Let me know what other doubts or questions I can help you with.
 

Rashmi

New member
Thanks Lourdes for the extensive research, reply and sharing some important information and links.

After reading your reply, I have emailed the debt agency yesterday, asking for more info on when they received my details for debt collection from Florence. I have also asked them if this now in UK or in Florence jurisdiction. I have also added that, if I don't receive all the evidence that I have requested from them, then I am never to be contacted again by them.
I think the reply from them should clear all these doubts.

Regarding contacting national debt line services, they couldn't help further as they mentioned that they are not aware of the Italian traffic law. They informed me to contact an Italian lawyer instead.

As per your suggestion, I did some online search of this company called CLI International Debt collector and it seems like they are a registered company in the UK. But reviews on the internet are mixed, some say they are fake; in the sense that they collect the info regarding unpaid traffic violations around the world and then start harassing people to pay unpaid amount and some say they are legitimate. so review is mixed and is not been very helpful.

Also, I found this on the net regarding the international debt laws and the reply is as below :-
In international debt collections, things work differently, as there are no international laws governing debt collection. Instead, debt collection proceedings against a client based outside your country must follow the laws of the client's country.
Your guess may be you are correct in the sense that this may be in the UK now. If according to Italian law, if the time has lapsed, then I am not sure why Florence is interested in getting this fine amount as it would not benefit them. I am unsure at this point who gets the benefit.
I will keep you all posted on their reply and appreciate all your suggestions and time.

Thanks again for sharing the details.
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Do keep us posted, especially if the collection agency offers more details. If you don't hear back from them quickly, it might be they cannot provide that proof. They have replied pretty quickly before, right? When you emailed them in January?

I am thinking that unless they can prove that they "got" this "debt" before the 5 years were up here in Italy, that they cannot presume to collect from you since the time limit expired under Italian law! If you pay up, they will pocket the money, not Florence.

I can believe they are rightfully registered in the UK; whether they practice ethically is another matter. If I were in your shoes, the part that would worry me is whether they can legitimately somehow enter you into the system as being in default and get funds from you, in one way or another. Is there something like a "better business bureau" or a consumer association like that where you can find out whether they have any complaints lodged against them? I can understand that debt agencies are not well-liked but if they truly buy "expired" debts in other countries just to try to intimidate you into paying, when you no longer need to, then you could certainly ignore them, and let this go without worries.

I'm sorry, however, to hear that you've already gone through the stress of the last few weeks trying to figure out what to do. I will continue to work in trying to inform people about some of the dangers of the reserved lanes, not just the ZTLs, when driving in Italy. If you know, it is easier to prevent!

Best of luck, I hope to hear some good news from you soon ;-)
 

Rashmi

New member
Hi Lourdes, from the last I updated, I have received a reply from the debt agency 4 days ago that they have requested all the details from the client( which I assume is in Florence) and revert back to me once they have the info.

Also, I did write to the Traffic police department asking for an urgent response to my earlier email sent in Jan 2022 and they have replied that have forwarded my email to the concerned department and waiting for their reply.

Now, its about waiting for the correct information from both the Traffic Department and Debt agency.
You have given me a point to ponder over regarding - the debt agency able to default me in a system to get the money. The only thing I am aware of is the Financial Ombudsman in the UK, where I can raise a complaint against debt agency to interfere to solve the issue, other than that I am not aware of any consumer associations or business bureau. The Ombudsman will be the last resort after raising a complaint with Debt agency first and when they are unable to resolve it, I can take it up with the Ombudsman. Now, you give me something to check online now regarding the debt agency authority and rights, if they are allowed to make me as a default to affect my credit score.

Please update the reserved lanes info on your blog as its useful to tourists who are unaware of the driving rules in Florence.

I will keep you posted as soon as I have any useful information to share.
Thanks for your well wishes and I hope this case gets closed quickly.
 

Lourdes

The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Hi there!

At least you got responses from both the debt agency and the traffic police department, let's hope they offer more information in a short time and not make you wait too long.

As far as the debt agency being UK, I'd be afraid for sure that they know which strings to pull to make you pay in the end. The question is whether they have that right, considering the time limit of that original fine was over by the time they contacted you. If they took their time to get in touch, it's their problem so you don't have to pay them anything. So I suppose you have to wait and see what extra info they provide you.
I am sorry it might take on your part getting some local legal counsel or at least consultation to help you figure out that situation.

I did go back and made sure to do a few updates on the article we have on the ZTL, which has a section dedicated to the reserved lanes: https://www.visitflorence.com/tourist-info/driving-in-florence-ztl-zone.html
I don't recall when I added it, some time ago, I realize I added it when others in the past already complained about that lane on Via Senese and receiving fines for having used it. I will make sure to highlight the reserved lanes whenever anyone posts on here about driving in town, so that they are aware they have to know of the ZTL AND the reserved lanes.

Keep us posted! Have a good "hump" day!
 

Rashmi

New member
Hi Lourdes,

I am still waiting for the information from them both.. Not sure what is a short time reply anymore. :)

Once I have the necessary details from either, I will be able to contact citizen's bureau for advise. With this little info to hand now, even they would be lost to give clear suggestions.

I did look at the updates on your blog regarding the reserved lanes and I think its very clear and precise and very helpful in addressing what to look out for while driving in Florence, not just ZTL but reserved lanes too.

I may send a follow up email to the traffic police department sometime this week.
I shall share any info as soon as I get it.

Thanks for the brilliant work you are doing in helping tourists with the dangers of driving in Florence. Keep up the good work.
 
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