The City of Antwerp has planned to implement a Low Emission Zone (herein after the “LEZ”) in its city centre prohibiting its access to polluting vehicles for environmental purposes and namely to improve the air quality. The most polluting vehicle such as old diesel cars not equipped with particle filters, will no longer be allowed to circulate in the city except under specific conditions – for a definite period of time and in exchange of a fee.

The City of Antwerp will place smart cameras equipped with an automated number plate recognition system at the boundaries of the LEZ. A LEZ databank will meanwhile be created, mainly fed by the national vehicle registration service “DIV” (Direction pour l’Immatriculation des Véhicules / Dienst voor Inschrijving van Voertuigen) and generate a white list of compliant vehicles.

When entering the boundaries of the LEZ, the camera will detect the registration plate number of your vehicle and assess whether or not you are allowed to enter the zone. If your vehicle is not on the white list, you are likely to face a fine.

The Privacy Commission however rendered an unfavourable opinion on this draft regulation considering that by duplicating the integral DIV data base in the LEZ data base, the Flemish Authority for Environment, Nature and Energy and the City of Antwerp are violating the proportionality principle set out in the Data Protection Act of 8 December 1992. Indeed, according to the Privacy Commission, all vehicles registered in Belgium (they are millions) will have to be processed while only a limited number of these vehicles is likely to enter the LEZ zone of Antwerp City… The authorities will probably have to redo their homework in order to be compliant. An adapted version of the project is expected to be submitted to the Privacy Commission today.