On 26 September 2019, the Court of Justice held its judgment in Case C-600/18, UTEP 2006. SRLv Vas Megyei Kormányhivatal Hatósági Főosztály, Hatósági, Építésügyi és Oktatási Osztály, on the interpretation ofArticle 41(1) of Regulation No 165/2014.

The request has been made in proceedings between UTEP 2006. SRL(“UTEP”) and the Vas Megyei Kormányhivatal Hatósági Főosztály, Hatósági, Építésügyi és Oktatási Osztály(Office of the Government Delegation in the Province of Vas, Inspection, Construction and Education Department, Hungary) concerning the imposition by the latter of an administrative fine payable by UTEP for an infringement of the legislation relating to the use of tachographs.

During a roadside inspection operation conducted in May 2017, the Hungarian authorities found that the driver of a vehicle owned by UTEP, a SME carrying out, inter alia, transport activities, had previously removed the driver-recording disc and, in various respects, interfered with the equipment and its electrical connection. Since during that period, designated by the driver as a rest one, he carried out loading and refuelling operations, the Hungarian authorities found that UTEP had infringed Article 32(3) and Article 33(1) and (3) of Regulation No 165/2014 and imposed on it an administrative fine.

Consequently, UTEP brought an action for annulment of the authorities’ decision and, in the alternative, a claim seeking a reduction in the amount of the fine before the Szombathelyi Közigazgatási és Munkaügyi Bíróság(Administrative and Labour Court, Szombathely, Hungary; the referring court). After staying the proceeding, the referring Court asked the Court of Justice whether Article 41(1) of Regulation No 165/2014 precludes the administrative practice of a Member State according to which, unlike non-resident road transport SMEs, those that are established in the territory of that Member State are liable to receive a lesser penalty, in the form of a warning rather than an administrative fine, where such SMEs commit, for the first time, an infringement of Regulation No 165/2014 of the same degree of gravity.

According to the Court of Justice, the requirement under Article 41(1) of Regulation No 165/2014, for which the penalties for infringements of that regulation must be effective, dissuasive and non-discriminatory, applies to those situations, such as the one in the present case, where an infringement of the same degree of gravity entails different penalties depending on whether or not the road transport enterprise concerned is established in the Member State in whose territory the infringement was committed. Therefore, the administrative practice for which a non-resident road transport SME is liable to be penalised more severely than a resident SME in respect of an infringement of the same degree of gravity is contrary to Article 41(1) of Regulation No 165/2014.