Two EU countries have accused debt collection agency Transport for London of breaching data protection laws to obtain citizens’ names and addresses to issue fines for driving in the capital.
Motorists across Europe have been hit with penalties, some totaling thousands of pounds, for driving in London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez). Penalty notices are sent to foreign motorists who enter the capital without pre-registering their vehicle, and the Guardian has revealed that hundreds of drivers have been fined for driving emissions-compliant cars .
EU governments are warning that data used to identify drivers and send them penalties may have been obtained illegally.
According to the Belgian Ministry of Transport and the Dutch vehicle registration agency, RDW, there is no legal data sharing agreement between the two countries and the UK for the enforcement of emissions zones violations. .
RDW told the Guardian that Transport for London’s (TfL) debt agent, European Parking Collection (EPC), had requested the names and addresses of Dutch citizens linked to license plates through an agency government in Italy, which was not authorized to share this information.
“In response to several complaints from Dutch citizens, we were very concerned about how their data had been obtained and immediately opened an investigation,” a spokesperson said. “The result was that the data was requested by authorized users through the Italian National Contact Point (NCP). The NCP informed us that the authorized users used the data illegally and closed the specific accounts.
The Belgian Ministry of Transport has confirmed that the UK has no legal access to the contact details of Belgian drivers. However, dozens of Belgian citizens have received penalty notices (PCNs) for alleged breaches in Ulez, according to Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who has campaigned on the issue.
“It is completely unacceptable for EPC to use illegal methods to obtain personal data, under the aegis of TfL,” he said. “I have lodged a complaint with the European Commission, and we will not hesitate to take legal action to recover the millions of euros in fines unjustly paid.”
Some of the EPC’s sanctions were posted from an address in Uzbekistan, which is also outside the EU, prompting further questions about data protection.
EPC was awarded a five-year contract worth £5-10m by TfL in 2020, with an option to renew for another five years, to collect debts relating to breaches of London’s congestion charge and its different emission zones. The company is owned by US transport technology group Verra Mobility, listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange and led by former Bank of America Merrill Lynch executive David Roberts, who was paid $4.25 million in 2022.
EPC and Verra have been contacted for comment.