Judge rules that parking fines were illegal
The Bruges appeal court has sided with a woman from Ostend (West Flanders) who refused to pay parking fines.
The appeal court magistrate ruled that the private company that issued the fines did not have the authorisation to do so.
The ruling could spell problems for the legality of all parking fines issued by private companies between 2003 and 2008.
Last year the law was changed and private companies were granted the right to issue such fines, so called "retributions”.
The "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.
In Ostend the fee is 25 euros.
Professor of fiscal law Michel Maus says that the legality of the fines issued in the period 2003 - 2008 is now in doubt.
Everybody who was asked to pay such a fine and did so can now question the legality of this demand basing their argument on the ruling of the Bruges appeal court.
It is not the first time that the matter of private companies issuing fines has been taken up in court. A justice of the peace in St Niklaas last year ruled that motorists who parked illegally did not have to pay the fine issued by a private company.
This ruling accepted that privacy legislation had been violated in the way the cars' number plates were retrieved.
Parking companies "not worried"
Apcoa, a private company that issues fines in a number of towns is not impressed by the Bruges court's ruling. A spokesman for the company said they were not worried that many people would try and get their money back. He pointed to a series of other cases and rulings that were in the parking companies' favour.