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Brussels, 17th October 2007

Road charging – discounts on motorway tolls: Commission refers Spain to Court of Justice

Today, the European Commission has decided to take legal action against Spain for failure to respect European legislation on road charging when applying excessively high discounts on motorway tolls. Spain has introduced discounts of up to 50% for those heavy goods vehicles that frequently use its motorways. These excessive discounts for road usage favour mainly domestic hauliers, violate the principle of non-discrimination and distort competition. According to the referral decision, Spain has an additional three months to comply with the European rules. If there are no satisfactory measures taken within this deadline, the Commission will refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

The aim of the so-called 'Eurovignette Directive[1]' is to establish a mechanism for charging road infrastructure costs to hauliers without giving rise to distortions of competition between transport operators in the Member States.

The Directive requires that tolls shall be related to the costs of constructing, operating and developing the infrastructure network concerned. Member States may vary the rates of tolls only according to the emission classes of the vehicles using the motorway and according to the time of the day. The Directive does not allow particular discounts for frequent users that go beyond actual administrative cost savings, as excessive discounts would have to be compensated for with higher payments by occasional users. However, Spain did not provide any evidence that administrative cost savings would justify discounts at the levels which are presently applied.

The new amending Directive[2] specifies that discounts for frequent users may under no circumstances exceed 13 % of the toll paid by equivalent vehicles that are not eligible for the discount. Spain currently applies discounts that may go up to 50 %.

[1] Directive 1999/62/EC of 17 June 1999 on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures; OJ L 187, 20/07/1999, p. 42 – 50.

[2] Directive 2006/38/EC of 17 May 2006 amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures; OJ L 157, 09/06/2006, p. 8 – 23.

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