Judgment of the European Court of Justice: Truck toll in Germany too high
Reclaim Truck Tolls in Germany
Hauliers are entitled to a refund of up to 7% of the tolls paid from 2018 onwards. Join the European hauliers’ group proceedings! Deadline: 31 October 2021. Success-fee based, risk-free proceedings.
How to reclaim truck tolls?
On 28 October 2020, the European Court of Justice ruled that the level of the German toll for trucks violates European law. According to the ruling, the Federal Republic of Germany included the costs of the traffic police in the calculation of the toll, although this is not permitted under European law. Only infrastructure costs were to be taken into account in calculating the toll. Therefore, all German toll payers are entitled to a refund of at least that portion of the toll that has been paid since 2018, which was based on the costs of the traffic police. According to the information available, the claim is at least four per cent of the toll paid. Claims in excess of this level are also possible.
In its judgment of 28 October 2020, Case C-321/19, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that the truck toll charged by the Federal Republic of Germany breached the prohibition on excess costs under Article 7(9) of Directive 1999/62/EC as amended by Directive 2006/38/EC (“the Directive”). Article 7(9) of the Directive provides that tolls may only be based on the principle of ” recovery of infrastructure costs only”. Such charges include the costs of operating the transport infrastructure network.
The Federal Republic of Germany, among other things, accounted for the costs of the traffic police as a cost of operating the infrastructure network. This was challenged by the plaintiffs in the main proceedings before the Administrative Court of Cologne (VG Köln, judgment of 1 December 2015, 14 K 7974/13). On appeal, the Higher Administrative Court of Münster then referred the question to the ECJ as to whether the consideration of traffic police costs in determining the toll is compatible with Article 7 (9) Paragraph 2 of the Directive (OVG Münster, judgment of 28 March 2019, 9 A 118/16).
In response, the ECJ noted that “police activities are the responsibility of the State acting in the exercise of its public powers, and not as operator of the road infrastructure”. Therefore, according to the ECJ, expenditure by the traffic police cannot be considered as operation costs within the meaning of Article 7 (9) of the Directive (ECJ, judgment of 28 October 2020, C-321/19, para. 26 et seq.).
Following this ECJ decision, the Higher Administrative Court of Münster will have to decide whether other components of the toll are also illegal and to what extent there is a claim for reimbursement.
Who can join the European hauliers’ group proceedings?
Every company which has paid truck toll on German motorways and federal roads between 1 January 2018 and 30 September 2021 and is based in one of the following countries: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine. The total amount of toll paid for this period must be at least 15,000 Euro. It is important that the toll has been paid by the company itself on the basis of a contractual relationship with Toll Collect or with an EETS service provider.
What is the role of URSUS?
On behalf of European hauriers from the above-listed countires who opted in for the group proceedings, URSUS is filing the claims of the participants with the German Federal Office for Goods Transport and, if necessary, will enforce those claims in court. Through our cooperation with the German litigation funding company “GH Rechtsfinanzierungen”, you have the opportunity to participate in these proceedings and enforce your rights without any risk of upfront costs. A payment will only be necessary in case of success and will be calculated as a percentage of the amount reclaimed. More information in our Frequently Asked Questions section.
Endorsements by European Industry Associations
“Gansel Rechtsanwälte” is one of the largest law firms in Germany with over 300 employees and resources to handle tens of thousands of cases in parallel. We have successfully worked with Gansel in the past when it comes to representing numerous clients in court simultaneously.
"GH Rechtsfinanzierungen" is the claims finance division of renowned German legal technology expert and entrepreneur Dr. Gernot Halbleib. The partnership allows us to offer our services to our clients without any financial risks and upfront costs for them.
The German Transport Law Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transportrecht) promotes the development of German and international transport law for the benefit of all those involved in the transport industry. By being a member of the association, we have the opportunity to shape the development of law in this field.
Frequently asked questions
Every company which has paid truck toll on German motorways and federal roads between 2018 and 30 September 2021 and is registered in one of the following countries: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine. The total amount of toll paid for this period must be at least 15,000 Euro. It is important that the toll has been paid by the company itself on the basis of a contractual relationship with Toll Collect (or with an EETS service provider such as Axxès, Telepass, Toll4Europe, Total Marketing Services). If your group of companies includes several companies, register each company that has its own contractual relationship with Toll Collect or the EETS service provider individually. It is not relevant which of the companies executed the payment.
All companies registered with Toll Collect have a contractual relationship with Toll Collect. Registered companies have a user number with Toll Collect.
Even if you are not registered with Toll Collect, you may still have a contractual relationship with Toll Collect. This may be the case if the journey is booked manually, or if a billing company (SVG, UTA, DKV, Shell etc.) has contracted with Toll Collect on your behalf as an agent. Usually, the Toll Collect user number and/or Toll Collect toll statement will be included in the invoices you receive from your billing company. If in doubt, please contact your billing company.
Only a company that has a direct contractual relationship with Toll Collect or an EETS service provider can claim a refund. Depending on the particular case, it may be both the lessee and the lessor, but not both at the same time for the same toll. However, as a general rule, the lessor will be entitled to a refund.
It is not sufficient if the company has only incurred the toll as part of the internal relationship. If, for example, you rented vehicles and the toll was paid directly by the rental company (Charterway, PEMA, etc.) and you were then invoiced, this is not sufficient, as in this case you have no contractual relationship with Toll Collect.
With some exceptions, German law does not provide for a class or collective action. We will therefore pursue your claims in a standardised procedure in the form of a group proceeding. This means that we will file each claim individually, but batch processing will allow us to pursue the claim very efficiently and at the lowest expenses possible.
The enforcement of your claims and participation in the group proceedings does not require you to pay any upfront costs. Litigation costs are covered by litigation funding company GH. Only in case of success, a fee based on the amount recovered will be charged as follows:
29 % if an out-of-court settlement is reached by negotiation;
33% if one or more standard legal proceedings are conducted, but there is no need for a court proceeding in your individual case;
39% if, contrary to expectations, your individual case is to be litigated in court.
The minimum success fee constitutes 500 Euro.
For members of the following industry associations, a 10 % reduction on the success fee applies:
ASMAP (Russia), AsMAP (Ukraine), BAMAP (Belarus), GZS (Slovenia), Latvijas Auto (Latvia), OZS (Slovenia). Currently, we are negotiating with associations in other Central and Eastern European countries to be able to provide a reduction to their members, too.
The European Court of Justice has clearly ruled that the German toll is partly illegal. Depending on the position of the German Federal Office for Goods Transport, a settlement through negotiations is probable. However, the enforcement may also require judicial review in court by one or more instances. Despite the plaintiffs’ very good starting position, no definitive prediction can be made as to the outcome of the case. However, our current assumption is that we will be able to reach a solution where a court proceeding in every case will be unnecessary. In any event, you will only have be charged the above-mentioned success-based fee if we are able to enforce your claims. If enforcement is not successful, you will not bear any costs.