The European Commission has decided on Thursday to bring Germany to the Court of Justice of the European Union for discrimination of foreign vehicles on their highways.

Until now, German Autobahn highways were free of charge. But last year, the German parliament introduced a new road charging scheme for private passengers cars (PKW-Maut) registered in the country, which according to the commission is discriminatory for foreign vehicles.

The German legislation proposed in fact that vehicles would benefit a total deduction of the road charge from their car taxation. The amount of the charge is exactly 130 euros per year.

“We are concerned that the German system set by the law discriminates against drivers from other member states,” said Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen.

This would lead to a ‘de facto’ exemption from the charge exclusively for the cars registered in Germany. Moreover, prices for short-term authorizations (for periods of less than a year), which are intended for vehicles not registered in Germany have been found “disproportionality high” in some circumstances.

The Commission considers that the German system fails to comply with the principles of non-discrimination based on nationality and the free movement of goods and services.

The Commission explained in a note that one of the key requirement for non-discriminatory road charges is that all users pay the same charge for using roads. Introducing a road charge for foreigners only, in law or in fact, is therefore against the EU treaties.

Although the Commission addressed the German authorities several times on the matter since November 2014, nothing has been done so far. Therefore, the EU is referring Germany to the Court of Justice.

The reactions

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt expressed criticism over the Commissions’ decision for slowing down the law, which was about to set place in 2017.

“The infrastructure levy is in line with European law. The European Court of Justice will confirm this,” he said.

Berlin has until 10 February 2016 to respond.