The Advocate General of the CJEU’s opinion on the toll reimbursement: Germany charged rates against the law

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The Advocate General of the CJEU’s opinion on the toll reimbursement: Germany charged rates against the law

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued an opinion in a case concerning the reimbursement of a German road toll brought by a Polish carrier. Other carriers will be able to refer to it when applying for reimbursement of the toll. 

The Advocate General of the CJEU, Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, delivered his Opinion in a preliminary ruling procedure on 17 June (as part of such a procedure, the courts of the Member States are asking the Court of Justice for an interpretation of the European Union law which makes it possible to assess whether a provision of national law is contrary to European Union law), in a pilot case for the reimbursement of the German road toll on heavy goods vehicles (C-321/19).

It stated that Germany had not taken into account the guidelines of the EU directives on road infrastructure costs when calculating the toll. An application for a ruling by the CJEU was submitted in April 2019 by the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster, which decided the case of a Polish freight forwarding company demanding the reimbursement of a motorway toll paid from 1 January 2010 to 18 July 2011. The case concerns nearly €12,500. 

According to the Polish company, German toll rates calculated on the basis of the German Federal Road Toll Act violate the guidelines of EU law. Germany also included the costs of the traffic police in the operating costs, on the basis of which the rates were calculated, among other things.

The operation of the motorway does not involve police action,” stresses Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe in his opinion. 

He adds that, according to him, other calculation errors related to the financing of motorway construction have been committed. 

Furthermore, according to Øe, Germany exceeded the infrastructure costs that qualified as a basis for charging, which also constitutes a breach of EU law.

“Model procedure”

The judges of the CJEU most often follow the conclusions of their Advocates-General. According to the law firm Pfnür representing the Polish company, the final judgment, in this case, is expected still this year. 

This is a model procedure for many more toll reimbursement actions to be brought by Polish forwarders. It may also prove to be significant for the criteria used according to which the toll is charged now or will be charged in the future,” explains the law firm in a press release.

How much Germany will ultimately have to pay back after a ruling by the CJEU and the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, which rules on the Polish company, we currently do not know. It is possible that tolls will be reimbursed first, but then companies will receive new bills based on new, correct rates, German media speculate. 

Photo: CC BY 2.0

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