Belgium investigating alleged criminal breach of data protection laws over Ulez fines


Thousands of fines for breaches of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez) rules may have been sent unlawfully to drivers of EU-registered vehicles, Belgian authorities claim.

The Belgian ministry for transport has ordered an investigation into alleged criminal breaches of data rules after motorists received penalty charge notices from a collections agent acting for Transport for London (TfL).

Since Brexit, UK authorities do not have access to personal data of EU citizens for non-criminal enforcement. However, drivers in several EU countries have received fines, many totalling thousands of pounds, for failing to register their Ulez-compliant cars with TfL before driving into London.

Some have been penalised mistakenly under the separate low emissions zone (Lez) that covers heavy goods vehicles entering Greater London. One driver was fined nearly £11,000 after a three-day visit in a hire car.

A Belgian court bailiff, acting for TfL’s collections agent Euro Parking Collection, is accused of abusing its legal powers to obtain more than 20,000 registered keeper details and pass them on to Euro Parking for UK enforcement. The bailiff has since had its official access to the vehicle licensing database suspended pending disciplinary proceedings while Belgian MPs have demanded their government take action to recover the money paid by drivers.

Meanwhile, Dutch authorities have intervened after driver details were allegedly illegally obtained by an agent in Italy acting for Euro Parking and a group of 100 French drivers have begun a lawsuit claiming that their details were obtained unlawfully.

According to Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who uncovered the alleged data abuse, Euro Parking is circumventing GDPR rules by employing EU based agents who obtain driver data on its behalf without disclosing it will be shared with a UK company. In correspondence seen by the Guardian, the Belgian bailiff was twice refused permission to use the vehicle licensing database for the purposes of Ulez enforcement.

However, according to Freilich, the bailiff nonetheless used its official licence to obtain the details of drivers who were then issued with fines by Euro Parking Collection (EPC).

“EPC should cease these operations immediately, if necessary, by government action,” he said. “Furthermore, they should be compelled to repay all of the ill-gotten gains.”

The Dutch vehicle licensing agency, RDW, said in June it had launched an investigation after complaints from drivers who had received hefty fines after visiting London in emissions-compliant cars. It said there is no data-sharing agreement between the UK and the Netherlands for Ulez enforcement and it had released driver details to an agent in Italy, which had implied it was for enforcement within the EU.