European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport
Locations: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia
Increasingly, European Union Member States are introducing national vignette (time based) road user charging systems to target car usage of their major highways, particularly from foreign countries. The European Commission was concerned that practices among EU Member States regarding charging of cars across national highway networks vary and while they may appear to charge all users similarly, they may include discriminatory practices, effectively creating a barrier to the free movement of people.
LeighFisher was commissioned to provide road policy and regulatory advice and to analyse the practices of all EU Member States that have private vehicle vignette systems (Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia) to determine which of these did or did not adopt best practice in terms of customer service, business rules, pricing, and enforcement. Although there is no specific European law regarding charging of cars, the EU Treaty has principles that govern it. As such, we undertook a regulatory analysis of what practices of Member States could be considered to violate principles of proportionality and non-discrimination.
Some EU Member States do not provide much publicly available information about their systems, their prices, and how to purchase them, so we prepared surveys for them to respond to, and received and collated information from them on costs, revenues, and business practices. We compared this data with our own database of road user charging system costs from multiple jurisdictions to determine what a fair level of administrative costs would likely be.
These enabled a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis to be undertaken of business practices and pricing relativities between the different pricing products available (ranging from one-year passes to four days).
While local and foreign cars are charged the same prices, prices for full-year passes were proportionately substantially cheaper on a per day basis to prices for one-week passes.
To more precisely assess proportionality, we developed an economic tool for assessing reasonable proportionality in pricing between long- and short-term vignette passes. This was based on using sample data on approximate usage patterns of different purchasers of vignette products, and the relative price per kilometer charged for long- and short-term users. It provided some broad guidance that could be enhanced by more detailed information if Member States so wished. We identified technology-based options to enhance service and options to demonstrate a non-discriminatory and proportionate response to enforcement issues. Finally, we undertook an economic and social impact assessment of the consequences of wider adoption of private vehicle vignettes, including the effects on core EU Treaty objectives of integration and free movement of people and goods.
The European Commission published both our reports on the assessment of private vignette systems in Member States and the impact analysis study. The Commission sent an official communication to Member States about how it saw the EU Treaty applying to road user charging for cars, to influence their regulatory practices, thereby establishing road policy and regulatory advice for all members in the future.
- Developed a thorough understanding of the European road pricing system
- Provided our client with a robust solution to a complicated problem