Six years ago I went on a holiday to Italy which involved flying in to Pisa, hiring a car to travel to our chosen villa and then – at the end of our stay – then driving to leave the car at, and fly home from, Rome airport.
A couple of months later, out of the blue, I received a communication from the hire car company announcing that they had ‘taken’ another sum [about 100 euros if memory serves, which admittedly it may not] as their charge (‘as per our contract’) for ‘administering’, i.e. passing on, two purported Italian police speeding offence charges that I had allegedly committed in my hire car on a dual-carriageway ring road on the approach to Rome.
Two points on that. Firstly, in all honesty, I cannot recall whether I was actually speeding on the day in question – there was certainly no indication at the time that I had been doing so, still less that (as alleged) I had committed two separate offences within seven minutes of each other. Secondly, I had been just proceeding in an orderly manner, minding my own business, with hardly any accompanying traffic, i.e. offending nobody.
On that occasion, having rung the hire car company and in forceful tones made them aware of my view of them, the contents of their contract (of which I no longer had a copy), the Italian police and indeed their country – I recall afterwards being rather proud of one improvised ‘on the spur of the moment’ theme to the effect “Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was just a standard scam on your part to make more money out of your car hire business, by sending hundreds of unsuspecting Brit holidaymakers details of spurious alleged traffic offences a month or two after they’d returned home in the hope or expectation that they’ll cough up without asking any questions. I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies … viz. that you’re only ‘pinging’ me for two offences, when you could just as easily have ‘pinged’ me for twenty or thirty, because I wouldn’t have been any the wiser and/or more able to defend myself if you had, still less stop you from taking more money off my card without at least first contacting me to gain my approval!”
Much later – about another two months later – I received two separate communications from the Rome police announcing that I had to pay about 300 euros for each of my (unproven, certainly to my satisfaction) speeding offences.
Last summer – on a family holiday – I again visited Italy for a villa holiday. We had hired three cars for our party, leaving the airport in supposed convoy for a three hour trip to our villa in the hills. The lead car did set off in strangely-fast mode, which required me (in Car 2) to do likewise, simply because they had a sat-nav and/or map directing us to our destination and I didn’t, and of course that forced Car 3 (behind me) also to follow suit.
About six weeks after the holiday was over and we were all going about our lives back in Blighty, guess what happened?
Deja-vu – that’s what.
Those driving, or at least responsible for, all three cars were required to pay ‘car hire company’ admin charges, and then substantial Italian police fines, for alleged speeding offences committed on the road out of Pisa. Which we reluctantly did.
Now – yesterday, about eight months after my holiday – I have received in the post another alleged notification from the Italian police of another speeding offence committed on the same road, requiring me to pay 197 euros within 60 days or else a full fine of 367 euros.
Is this taking the piss, or what?
Last night I emailed the drivers of (or in one case the chap responsible for) both other the hire cars on our holiday last summer to ask if they’d had similar postal arrivals.
Only one has replied to date and he has done so in the affirmative. He added that, in all so far, he has paid a total of over £800 in alleged traffic offences arising from said holiday and he feels very aggrieved about it, to the point where it will be a long time before he ever visits Italy again.
Now, I’m not one of those swivel-eyed Brexit-supporting Little Englanders who takes the line that the world would be a far better place – never mind the EU – if only everyone else let Britain run it. But when you take into account the untrustworthiness of the French, the total incompetence of the governments of (and endemic corruption within) the Mediterranean countries and the general unaccountability of the EU secretariat, there are times when any Englishman (or woman) could be forgiven for harbouring such sentiments.
I wonder if those in the ‘Remain’ camp for the EU Referendum in June appreciate that, by their actions, the Italian offices of hire car companies and traffic police authorities are driving (if that’s not an inappropriate use of the verb) tens if not hundreds of British holidaymakers into their ‘Leave’ equivalent.
In fact, if I was in charge of the ‘Remain’ campaign, the first thing I’d do in the cause of winning (or indeed manipulating) the result of the EU Referendum is to tell the EU commission – and indeed all representatives of the 27 or is it 28 EU country members – for Pete’s sake not to say anything at all in public about anything to do with the EU for the next ten weeks.
Why? Simply because any mention of the EU makes us Brits want to quit it.
Mind you, if you think about it, when your team’s best lines are “Look, we know the EU is terrible but, if we stay in it, we’ll at least have the chance to reform it …” [Oh yeah? Mr Cameron’s supposed ‘re-negotiation’ of Britain’s position didn’t go too well did it?!?] and “Can everyone within the EU please pipe down for now because otherwise you’ll scare our voters into the ‘Leave’ camp …”, it doesn’t seem to say a great deal for the argument you’re trying to make.
As of today – because of the Italian traffic fines situation referred to above – both I am my fellow accused driver shall be joining my fellow Rust columnist Simon Camion-Brown in voting ‘Leave’.