EU court rules motorway fines violate principle of proportionality

Issues

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Wednesday ruled that fines levied in Hungary for using the motorway without a vignette violate the EU principle of proportionality, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

The court issued the ruling in connected cases involving lorry drivers who failed to exit the motorway according to their itineraries and were each fined about HUF 150,000. It said that the requirement of proportionality "must be interpreted as precluding the level of the penalty provided for by [a system of penalties]."

In one of the instances the court weighed, a driver for road haulage company Euro-Team missed a turnoff from the motorway because of a navigation system error and traveled an additional 5 kilometers before exiting. The court noted that the toll Euro-Team paid for using the lower-class road in the vehicleʼs original itinerary was higher than that for using the short stretch of the motorway.

In the other instance, a driver for Spiral-Gep traveled on the motorway in error for a period of 20 minutes after failing to take his intended exit. After realizing his mistake, he stopped his vehicle on the motorway hard shoulder and paid the required toll on his own initiative.

The court said neither company had obtained any advantage nor caused the state any loss.

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