Beware of fines when hiring a car in Portugal

A22 Algarve protest against tolls

A22 Algarve protest against tollsConfusion reigns in the Algarve where new road tolls have been recently introduced. I’ve written before about the SCUTS and the protest for the new motorway charges – especially on the A22 in the Algarve.

The danger for hire car drivers is one of over-charging on their credit cards and fines in the post. If you hire a care in Portugal, you are liable to pay fees if you drive under a SCUT toll gantry. These gantries are fitted with automatic number recognition (ANR) cameras, and you become liable for a fee of around 50c or €1.25 each time you drive under one (the fees depend on the length of road).

As a hire car driver, you can buy a device for the car and credit it with a sum of money. However, if you don’t have one of these, you get five days to pay the fee at a CTT post office.

The problem comes when you don’t pay the fee. There’s talk on some forums of car hire companies billing credit cards for charges of up to €25 or even more to cover charges, however the road operators Brisa and Euroscut say the hire companies are not liable for the payments if they give details of the driver. The driver will then be sent a payment demand to their home.

The whole thing is a shambles. A consumer action group failed in court this week in a legal challenge to the A22 tolls. So the only advice I can give to all travellers is to be very careful. Ask questions about what you need to do and check your credit card bills for any additional charges later on that you may not need to pay.

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