What happens if I don't pay a Danish fine?
December 3, 2015 8:07 AM   Subscribe

While in Copenhagen on business this past October, I received a fine for not (correctly) paying for a Metro ticket. Do I have to pay it?

A train was pulling up while I was trying to get a ticket from the automated machine, but I ended up grabbing what was a piece of paper that literally said "THIS IS NOT A TICKET". So when the ticket controller came around to check tickets, I presented the non-ticket, which he pointed out and the informed me that I had to pay a fine of 750 DKK ($109 USD) for using the train without paying for a 24 DKK ($3.49 USD) ticket. I had to give the ticket controller my information, which consisted of my US Illinois Driver's License, and he gave me a citation. I shrugged and got off the train where I was going and thought I had a neat souvenir, thinking that there's no real consequence of not paying the fine.

It was to my surprise, however, when I received in the mail last week a document from Denmark, stating that I now owed 850 DKK ($123 USD) - the original 750 DKK and now an additional 100 DKK late fee.

As you can imagine, I'm a little annoyed that I have to pay the fine because I wasn't skipping out on buying a train ticket, I just did it wrong. Also, I believe that the magnitude of the fine is a little ridiculous.

But what happens if I don't pay the fine? Will I be extradited to Denmark as a criminal? Will Interpol be knocking at my door? Will I receive anonymous packages of poisoned picked herring?
posted by photovox to Travel & Transportation around Denmark (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you ever going to need to go back to Denmark, or anywhere else in Europe, on business? If so, pay the damn thing. If not, pay the damn thing anyway. Yes, it's an outsized fine in relation to the cost of a ticket -- that's entirely intentional, to make sure that people have an incentive to buy tickets and do it correctly.

You screwed up. That's not Denmark's fault. Own up to it and send them a check.
posted by Etrigan at 8:22 AM on December 3, 2015 [18 favorites]

From an expat blog:

As for people/tourists who live outside of Denmark, the authorities DO NOT pursue you legally. They have too many other things to worry about and according to them, the transportation companies do not have the resources to go after you either. Basically after a year and a half, the records are deleted and there is no database showing that you have failed to pay a fine, which also includes traffic fines like speeding or safety violations.

That said, I am NOT advocating that you do not pay your ticket fine, but you can at least breathe a bit lighter knowing that you are not being pursued or will be stopped at the airport or customs when entering Denmark if you have an unpaid public transporation fine.

Of course if you do return to Denmark and have another incident within 18 months, you will be fined for the new violation and the previous one. So be forewarned. Hope that helps many of you who have written and enquired about your fines.

posted by vacapinta at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Holy shit that is a lot of money. I would not pay this. You may be setting yourself up for an even more exorbitant fine if you travel in Denmark again but IMO I'd rather take the chance.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

you came to our country. you did something wrong (deliberate or not is not the question here). this was discovered and you were presented with the consequence. can you not pay the fine? by this I mean, is it beyond your means and paying will subject you to unnecessary hardship? if not, pay up. its what we do, its also what you should do.
posted by alchemist at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2015 [16 favorites]

The reason why they fine you so much is there aren't ticket collectors on every train or between every stop - that would be pretty impossible. I take four trains per day five days per week (so 20 per week), and I get checked on about five of them. But I make damn sure I have my ticket because the fines are steep and unrelenting if I don't. They're also pretty clear in all the signs and literature that making a mistake or not understanding the system is no excuse, it's on you to use the system correctly (and, to be fair, the instructions are everywhere and very clear and always available in English). So if your reason for not wanting to pay the fine is because it seems unfair and greedy due to its size, then pay it because it's that big for good reason. Everyone paying for the system is what keeps the system running so well after all.

The other thing is, if you'd logged on to the website at the bottom of the citation and written a quick appeal explaining the situation they may have waived it (I've done this). But that chance is now gone.

But still, if you're don't live in Denmark or aren't preparing to move here then nothing much will happen if you don't pay (as outlined above). I probably wouldn't just out of sheer laziness. If you do come back within the 18 months then make sure you are really scrupulous about having the correct ticket at all times and you'll be fine.
posted by shelleycat at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whether you should or shouldn't and whether it's a lot or not aside, you're asking for advice and feedback here. In my opinion, you're providing an irrational argument as to why you should not have received the fine in the first place. You got on a train without a valid ticket. The particulars on how you arrived at that point are irrelevant. I'll add that being flippant isn't helping either.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:03 AM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Did you pay and not have the correct evidence, or did you not get a chance to pay before getting on the train in a rush? Your ethical standing depends on the answer.

That being said, it's not often you get a chance to stick it to the impersonal wheels of bureaucracy without consequence. You are outside their jurisdiction and all they can do is figuratively shake their fist at you in writing, or try to shame you into paying through some moral obligation that they do not themselves share, slave as they are to the published policies and regulations of their organization.
It's an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all fine created by a municipal committee that is targeted at domestic abusers of the transportation system rather than at tourists making an honest mistake with an unfamiliar system: send them an amount that you think is reasonable for your transgression and see how they respond.

Odds are it will be another dehumanizing form letter, but your conscience should be clear.
posted by cardboard at 11:45 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I reside in Copenhagen. I ALWAYS pay the correct fare when using public transportation because I don't want to get hit by those steep fines. I know people who never pay to use the trains, jumping on and off trains to dodge ticket controllers while getting to where they have to go. One of my closest friends is a ticket controller who lets off way more people than he fines.
Take that document, throw it away and forget about it. You won't be extradited, nothing will happen to you. At. All.
You made a mistake, not paying the fine isn't going to bring Danish Railways screeching to a halt.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

(and, to be fair, the instructions are everywhere and very clear and always available in English)

A ticket system that prints anything that is not a ticket without the user requesting it is a failure of the user experience design. The core competence of the ticket machine needs to be getting the ticket into the hand of the user and everything else should be secondary, especially if the fine for an innocent mistake is roughly 33 times the cost of the ticket. The fact that the not-ticket (which I'm assuming was a receipt?) had to be annotated with its lack of ticket status means that it's been mistaken for tickets in the past, but merely adding that text doesn't help people unfamiliar with the system who walk off without the actual ticket. It could, for example, add enough details to allow a ticket controller to see that the user had purchased an appropriate ticket.

So I would suggest that there is not a clear moral imperative to pay the fine. But this may be one of those areas where European and USA cultural norms are very different.
posted by Candleman at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

The ticket machine says "Do you want a receipt" and it's every bit as easy to hit no as it is to hit yes. They even ask everything in English if you want (with a really obvious and easy to use option to change the language) despite that English isn't even an official language here. If you hit no you get the ticket only, if you hit yes you get the ticket and the receipt. Being surprised that you get a receipt with your ticket when you asked for a receipt makes no sense. I'm pretty sure it even says 'ticket printing' on the screen as the actual ticket is printed. So there is no poor design or nefarious systems going on here, just straight user incompetence (grabbing one of the two pieces of paper in the hopper rather than both of them). And the terms of service for the transport system make it clear that it's up to the user to buy the ticket correctly even as it makes it really easy to do so.

So if you're going to go by moral imperative, then pay the fine. Because the Copenhagen public transport system is one of the most user-friendly and foreigner-friendly that you'll find in non-English speaking Europe. If instead you're going to go by what you can get away with (which many people would, probably including me) then don't pay the fine, because you will get away with it in these circumstances.
posted by shelleycat at 9:44 AM on December 4, 2015

According to this website, after 18 months the records are deleted and no action is taken. (Read down to the foot of the page.)

Why did you give the ticket guy your driver's license? I wouldn't have thought a train employee has the right to demand to see your ID.
posted by essexjan at 12:29 PM on December 4, 2015

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