Court ruling quashes parking fine system

The Constitutional Court has ruled that private companies issuing parking fines cannot track down personal data of parking offenders with the federal government. The Court argues that the regions are responsible, and not the federal government. A typical Belgian problem, one could say.

The ruling in fact means that, in theory, everyone receiving a parking fine issued by a private company, can refuse to pay the fine on legal grounds.

Many municipalities have granted private companies the right to issue parking fines, called "retributions". These retributions are issued when motorists fail to put money in the metre and are tucked behind the windscreen. Drivers are then expected to pay the required amount by bank transfer.

However, the private companies also have to know the identity of the offenders to make sure the fine is paid. The companies turn to a federal instance called DIV to find out the identity of the owner of the vehicle through the number plate.

The Constitutional Court has now ruled that the federal government  cannot supply these details, as the regions are responsible in the matter.

It was a man from Ostend who took the matter to court on privacy grounds.

"Court case more expensive than a parking fine"

The State Secretary responsible for Mobility, Etienne Schouppe (Flemish Christian democrat) says that the regional and federal governments will have to work out a solution together.

Mr Schouppe (photo) admits that the ruling gives parking offenders the opportunity to fight the fine in court, but thinks that not many offenders will actually take that step.

"If they want to spend some thousand euros on a court case to appeal against a parking fine, they should do so. But that cost is much higher than a parking fine of for example 50 euros. That's a choice they have to make", Mr Schouppe told the VRT.

In the mean time, private companies can continue to issue fines, but they will have more difficulties to find out the private details of the parking offenders.