The Défenseur des Droits’ comments come in a report on the forfait de post-stationnement, a scheme rolled out two years ago which gives flexibility to councils.
It means councils can set the rates of fines and can also decide by what method – letter or online – and how motorists can contest.
This often results in drivers having to pay before having a decision on their protest, unlike “traditional” fines, where you do not pay if you contest, leading to a complicated and drawn-out process.
Contesting a fine does not stop legal time limits for payment and if you contest and do not pay, you miss the chance of a lower fine for payment in the first five days.
The standard time for payment is three months, after which you get an increased fine, and beyond four, officials can seek to recover money from your bank or send in bailiffs to seize goods.
The first tier appeal – “Rapo” – is supposed to be dealt with locally within a month. If you are refused and wish to continue, you have to pay the fine, then appeal online to a body in Limoges with an “excessively formal” application.
The report notes that 95% of applications are deemed to be incomplete.
The report says the Défenseur receives “abundant” complaints about the wrongful issue of fines or increased-rate fines, and difficulties in contesting them. It also says the Limoges body is overloaded as many Rapos are “systematically refused”.