Legal Challenge Mounted Against “Over-charging” French Motorways

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Collective Action being taken against motorway companies that are “charging too much”

Former Minister for the Environment Corinne Lepage is leading a class action suit seeking “the fair price” of the motorway tolls, condemning what she refers to as an “overcharge” of toll fees that are increasing ahead of inflation.

Motorway toll companies APRR and Sanef earned a total of €7.6 billion between them in motorway tolls in 2011, bringing a combined net profit of €2 billion, according to the Cour des Comptes (Court of Audit).

“The motorist is being fleeced!” Corinne Lepage is at the centre of a collective legal action launched against the French motorway companies and the increase in the cost of tolls well ahead of current inflation rates – a fact that has already been highlighted in a number of official reports, including that of the Court of Audit.

Last week, the lawyer and former Environmental Minister outlined her approach on radio and in the press:

"The motorist is being fleeced!" So says lawyer and former government minister Corinnne Lepage

“The motorist is being fleeced!” So says lawyer and former government minister Corinnne Lepage

“According to our estimations, the current toll is at least 20% more than what it should be,” she said. The legal plaintiffs’ website Actioncivile.com was the platform chosen to launch the case, whose goal was to “exact the correct and fair toll price of the motorway companies.” Between now and next June, motorists can fill in a form on the site and demand a refund of 20%. The only condition is that you have used the A1 (Paris-Lille), A6 (Paris-Lyon), A7 (Lyon-Marseille), A9 (Perpignan-Montpellier) or the A13 (Cherbourg-Paris) at some point during the last five years and kept the receipt.
 
Those at the source of this legal claim are planning to request mediation talks with the companies, but if that doesn’t happen within a month, a law suit will be filed in the French courts.

“We hope to gather several tens of thousands of requests – maybe as many as 50,000,” said Ms Lepage to Le Parisien. Speaking on the iTélé channel last Friday, Finance Minister Michel Sapin went as far as saying that he felt that this collective legal action against the motorway companies was “a good idea.”

For these companies, it’s not the first time that they’ve come under attack from disgruntled motorists and they’ve been involved in an arm wrestle with the French State for several months. The government were on the point of seeking a ruling on the matter from the Conseil d’Etat (Counsel of State) and then suspended motorway toll increases. Government minsters have also put in place a working group on the future of motorway tolls.

The Association of French Motorway Companies responded to the mounting pressures from the French citizenry and government by saying that “the published case has no legal or economic basis” and points out that no motorway in France is obliged to price their tolls according to national rates of inflation. In France, the companies that run the motorways are mostly subsidiaries of the super-group duopoly of Eiffage and Vinci. Between them, they operate 9,048 of the 11,882 kilometres of French motorway.

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