This allegation, if confirmed, could cause a political upheaval within the European Union. According to the Guardian, "the names and addresses of thousands of EU motorists were illegally consulted by the Italian police and shared with the company that collects ULEZ (Ultra low emission zone, the London ZTL) fines on behalf of Transport for London (the company that manages public transport in the English capital)".
Heavy accusations are coming from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, but let's take a closer look at this affair to better understand the Guardian's reconstruction.
The Brexit issue
It all began with Brexit (the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union) and the negotiations between the institutions. Under the final agreement, the authorities across the Channel can only access the personal data of European citizens in the event of criminal offences. Unauthorised access to the London ZTL does not, and should not, fall into this category.
According to the British newspaper, this did not stop one of Italy's four national police forces (one of which has not been revealed) from accessing databases in other EU countries to share details of drivers guilty of entering the ULEZ.
The accusations were made first by the Belgian government, then by the Netherlands and Germany. According to the Brussels authorities, "the police abused their official powers to pass personal details of Belgian drivers to Euro Parking Collections, a company used by TfL to fine those who fail to comply with the ZTL". According to the Guardian, the Italian data protection authority is also investigating the matter.
We have contacted the Data Protection Authority's press office and are awaiting a response.
Last month, the Guardian revealed that "hundreds of thousands of British immigrants and EU citizens have been unfairly fined for entering the ULEZ, some for thousands of pounds. Many motorists have been fined for failing to pre-register emission-compliant vehicles before entering London. Others have been fined £2,000 (€2,342) for misclassifying their vehicles.
The British newspaper points out that in 2022, a Belgian bailiff was charged with the same offence as the Italian police and is currently the subject of disciplinary proceedings and a possible criminal investigation. TfL has reportedly claimed that since 2022, no fines have been served on Belgian motorists, according to the Guardian's findings. On the other hand, between March 2022 and October 2023, Euro Parking Collections sent more than 17,000 fines to citizens residing in Belgium.
To add fuel to the fire, TfL, in response to an enquiry from the Guardian, stated that it had not used illegal methods to trace the data of European motorists, pointing out that Euro Parking Collections is authorised to access data from the Belgian vehicle registration authorities. This claim was denied by the Brussels authorities, who nonetheless accused the Italian police of having passed on the information.
When questioned by the Guardian, the TfL declined to comment.