European Consumer Centre

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Vignettes in EU countries – the positives and the scams

Internet scammers have taken a new tack – they offer but never deliver a vignette for another European Union country to which the buyer wants to make a short trip. Alternatively, the stamp is more than twice as expensive. Here’s how to spot such fraudulent offers. However, there is some good news from the EU – from 2024 there will also be one-day or one-week vignettes that will have price caps.

Not only the European Consumer Centre at the CTIA has been contacted by consumers with a problem, which one of them described as follows: “Before my trip to Poland, I wanted to get a vignette as usual. I chose the company that was displayed as the first on the website list and filled in the form. The whole process was quick and after paying by card, I was asked to confirm my plate number. Only then did I look at the bill and see that instead of the amount (officially €9.80 for 10 days) I was charged €19.80! My original estimate was that there had probably been an increase in price in the meantime. I checked the prices – no change.”

This was one of the classified ads for an unfavourable purchase that appear in the search engine in one of the first places due to being paid. Given the name of the site, evoking that it is the official sales platform of the EU country in question, the consumer will not suspect anything and will pay the amount quoted. It is advisable to note whether it is a paid link and to check what the official price of the vignette is in that country. For example, the website can help with this.

There are, of course, fair websites that offer mediation for the purchase of vignettes from all EU countries and charge a fee. They are also sold at filling stations in front of the country’s borders with a brokerage surcharge.

The EU countries have made innovations, among other things, to make it clearer for drivers to buy vignettes when crossing national borders, where there are still significant differences. Under the new rules, vignettes will be valid for a shorter period of time (one day, one week or 10 days) from 2024 and will have price caps that can be set for cars. The aim is to ensure fair treatment of occasional drivers from other EU countries. EU countries that decide to charge for lighter vehicles such as vans, minibuses and cars on the road network will still be able to choose between toll or vignette systems.

MEPs ensured that three years after the rules enter into force, member states will publish reports on tolls and network charges collected on their territory, including information on how they use the revenue. According to the Parliament, revenues from these charges should contribute to sustainable transport, infrastructure and mobility.

In order to encourage the wider use of more environmentally friendly vehicles, EU countries will have to set different road charging rates from 2026 onwards, based on the CO2 emissions of trucks and buses and the environmental performance of vans and minibuses. They will also be required to significantly reduce charges for zero or low emission vehicles.

This article was published in dTest 10/2022.