Fines abroad: This is where your smartphone becomes a cost trap

Fines abroad: This is where your smartphone becomes a cost trap

Summer, sun, holidays - but even there, very expensive surprises lurk. Whether mobile phones behind the wheel, selfie bans or speed camera apps: In this article, we look at the legal regulations in other European countries and also explore the question of whether fines abroad can also be collected in Switzerland.

Can European fines be collected in Switzerland?

From a purely legal point of view, no state may first take action in other countries ("territorial sovereignty"). A state like Germany is therefore not allowed to collect fines from Swiss citizens in Switzerland. It can only collect fines from Swiss citizens when they are in Germany.

BUT: States can conclude agreements among themselves that enable and permit the collection of traffic fines on each other's territories. The bad news is that Switzerland has concluded such an agreement with the EU; the legal basis for this is found in Art. 30 IMAC, Art. 16 of the Second Additional Protocol to the European Mutual Assistance Convention and Art. 52 of the Schengen Implementation Convention.

1 Documents for persons resident in Switzerland who are not themselves being prosecuted in the foreign state may be served directly on the addressees by post, with the exception of summonses.
2 Documents in criminal matters relating to infringements of road traffic regulations may be served directly by post on recipients in Switzerland.
Art. 30 Ordinance on International Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (IMAC)

The competent judicial authorities of a Contracting Party may transmit procedural documents and judicial decisions directly by post to persons present in the territory of another Contracting Party.
- Art. 16 of the Second Additional Protocol to the European Mutual Assistance Convention

Article 52

(1. Each Contracting Party may send judicial documents directly by post to persons who are in the territory of another Contracting Party. (...)

(3. A witness or expert who has been served with a summons by post and who fails to comply with it shall not be liable to any penalty or coercive measure, even if the summons contains threats of coercion, unless he subsequently goes voluntarily to the territory of the requesting Party and is again duly summoned. The serving authority shall ensure that summonses sent by post do not contain threats of coercion. (...)

(4. If the request for mutual assistance is based on an act which is punishable under the law of both the requested and the requesting Contracting Parties as an infringement of the rules of law by authorities whose decision is subject to appeal to a court having jurisdiction in criminal matters, the service of documents shall in principle be effected in accordance with paragraph 1. (...)

- Art. 52 Schengen Convention


You see: EU fines may also be collected in Switzerland. At the same time, the right of the other state is restricted at this point, because another state may not interfere with the sovereign activities of another state. Foreign authorities are therefore not allowed to take coercive measures within Switzerland to collect fines from Swiss citizens. So, from a legal point of view, you do not have to pay foreign traffic fines and do not have to fear any arrests.

Why you should still pay foreign traffic fines

Nevertheless, depending on the country, the coercive measures taken by the states in the event of non-payment range from entries in wanted persons' registers, entry refusals and bans and, under certain circumstances, even arrest or confiscation of the vehicle if you cannot pay the outstanding fines on the spot. So, to avoid your holiday ending abruptly in jail, we strongly recommend that you pay your traffic fines promptly. Switzerland's island status in the European Union does not make things any easier for you.

Important: The rights of foreign states in enforcing fines in Switzerland are regulated by the individual EU states themselves with Switzerland. Switzerland has concluded corresponding agreements with France, the Netherlands, Austria, the Principality of Liechtenstein and Germany, among others, and further agreements with other countries are currently being negotiated. 

Smartphone fines: This is where your mobile phone becomes an expensive cost trap

Mobile phone driving: These penalties await you abroad

It goes without saying that mobile phone use should be taboo while driving. And you don't even have to make a phone call. In many countries, even holding a mobile phone is expensive. If you endanger other road users, it becomes even more expensive. 


Fine due


from CHF 115.-


from CHF 50.-


from CHF 25


CHF 200.-


from CHF 100.-


up to CHF 400


from CHF 100.-


from CHF 135.-


CHF 100.-


CHF 120.-


CHF 265.-


from CHF 165.-


CHF 130.-


CHF 25.-


from CHF 85.-


from CHF 145.-


CHF 100.-


from CHF 60.-


CHF 250

North Macedonia

CHF 45.-


CHF 135.-


from CHF 50.-


from CHF 110.-


from CHF 120.-


from CHF 120.-


CHF 160.-


from CHF 100.-


from CHF 40.-


from CHF 100.-


CHF 120.-


CHF 200.-

Czech Republic

from CHF 65.-


from CHF 10


from CHF 25

United Kingdom

from CHF 235.-


CHF 85.-

Speed camera apps: Better not to use them in these countries

Many countries use speed traps to detect traffic offenders. Speed camera apps and radar detectors warn of these speed traps. But did you know that some countries not only punish the use of speed cameras, but also ban speed camera apps? If you admit to using these apps, it will be expensive for you in the following countries. 

Our tip: As the legal regulations vary from country to country, we recommend that you inform yourself in advance and either only use speed camera apps before you start driving or switch off the corresponding functions in navigation systems. 


Legal situation

Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Romania, Spain

Speed camera apps allowed

Denmark, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Austria, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Latvia

Speed camera apps banned, fines of up to CHF 7200 or imprisonment! 

Freedom of panorama: When the holiday photo becomes expensive

The next pitfall lurks with the freedom of panorama, also called street image freedom. In Germany, the term is defined as follows:

The freedom of panorama (Section 59 UrhG) allows anyone to reproduce, distribute or publicly display works that are permanently located on public ways, streets or squares by painting, photographing or filming. In the case of buildings, this permission extends exclusively to the external view!

But not every country allows the photographing of public works. In these countries, photographs of sculptures or buildings constitute reproductions that are reserved only for the author according to local copyright laws. 

You don't have to worry about photos that are exclusively for private use. The situation is different, however, if you share these photos or videos on social media or want to use the images for commercial purposes, for example for your travel blog with advertisements or for a T-shirt motif. Then you may be committing a copyright infringement in these countries, which can be prosecuted. 

Example Paris Eiffel Tower:

Daytime shots are allowed, night shots are not. The reason: The light installations by the artist Pierre Bideau are protected by copyright and may therefore not be photographed for commercial purposes (no freedom of panorama).

In these countries there is no freedom of panorama (both of public works and of interiors).

France, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece

In these countries, freedom of panorama is very limited (non-commercial photos of public works allowed, but not of interiors) 

Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Iceland

In these countries, freedom of panorama is somewhat restricted (commercial images of buildings allowed, otherwise only non-commercial use. No panorama freedom of interiors).

Denmark, Norway, Finland

In these countries, freedom of panorama is slightly restricted (photography for commercial purposes allowed, no freedom of panorama of interiors).

Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Slovakia, Sweden (except for internet databases), Turkey, Cyprus

In these countries, the freedom of panorama is not restricted (photography for commercial purposes is allowed, also of interiors)

Great Britain, Netherlands, Ireland

The regulations on panoramic freedoms were enacted well before the advent of smartphone cameras, in the days when we still carried heavy guidebooks and sent postcards with the local sights. The producers of these things had to pay a fee to the local authorities. Countries with such laws, such as Italy or Greece, wanted to put the revenue into restoring ancient monuments. In smartphone times, however, photos are quickly snapped and shared - the legal grey areas have therefore become much larger, but the laws have not been adapted to today's realities, with the exception of Belgium. 

Our tip: Leave the professional SLR camera in your bag. Respect local indoor photography bans and mention the copyright holders on your social media images. In the case of the illuminated Eiffel Tower, this would be "Copyright Tour Eiffel - Illuminations Pierre Bideau".

Disclaimer: The information described in this text is of informative nature only. We do not assume any liability for its correctness. Please consult with a lawyer about your questions.

Anti-selfie laws: You’ll better leave your smartphone in your pocket here

In the search for the most spectacular selfie, many people went to the extreme. Some people unfortunately had to pay with their lives! In response, some cities - not only in Europe - have passed anti-selfie laws banning selfies. So you'd better not take a selfie in these places.

La Garoupe Stand, France

Although no people have died on this beach yet, the local authorities have issued a selfie ban. The reasoning: Beachgoers should rather enjoy the moment instead of being busy taking photos to show off. We don’t know any news about enforcement and fines though.

Pamplona, Spain

The running of the bulls in Pamplona has cost the lives of 15 people since 1925. In addition, 200 to 300 people are injured every year, some of them seriously. Since selfie-takers have a habit of blocking and disturbing the surroundings, cameras are generally not allowed while the festival is taking place. Depending on the severity of the offence, a fine of between 600 and 60,000 euros (CHF 590 to CHF 59,000) is possible.

Portofino, Italy

The small Italian town of Portofino near Genoa has also had enough of tourists blocking the streets in search of the best selfie. Therefore, tourists who hang around in two "red" zones longer than usual are fined 275 euros (CHF 270).

London, United Kingdom

The Crown Jewels in London are a very popular subject with tourists and locals alike. However, you should not take pictures in the Jewel House, where the crown jewels are stored. Although we are not aware of any fines being imposed, the shame and the expulsion is punishment enough for many people.

There are further selfie bans in Japan, Korea, India and the USA. 

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