Switzerland – new database for fare evaders: three-year-olds already registered

A fine for a child who didn’t have a bus ticket causes outrage. Now research shows: Infants are even recorded in a new database.

Under-six-year-olds ride for free in Switzerland. But there's an exception

Under-six-year-olds ride for free in Switzerland. But there is one exception.

A five- and a ten-year-old girl ride together in a Schaffhausen bus. The older of the two sisters has a season ticket with her, the younger one travels without one. Because the mother thought children under six would be allowed to use public transport for free in Switzerland.

But she has made the calculation without the controllers of the Schaffhausen transport companies. They give the five-year-old child a fine of 100 francs. It even has to sign the receipt itself. SRF’s consumer magazine "Espresso" reported on the case on Thursday. After a complaint, the Schaffhausen authorities reduce the fine to 50 francs.

The mystery of the fare jungle

The background of the story is the national tariff regulation with the number 600. The rule that children under the age of six travel for free is subject to one condition: they must be accompanied by an adult. Adult age, however, is defined oddly: It starts at age twelve. If the sister of the five-year-old had been two years older, everything would have been fine. Children under six are allowed to use public transport without adults, but they need a ticket to do so. One assumes that an adult person has solved this and thus takes responsibility for safety.

The rules are made by the fare organization CH-Direct. A spokeswoman explains:

But transport companies could be accommodating and reduce or cancel a surcharge. Several other businesses would have done the same, as a survey shows. The Schaffhausen fine is an isolated case, according to CH-Direct.

In fact? Since spring there is a national fare dodger database. Currently, it is fed with personal data from 80 transport companies. By the end of the year, 115 companies will have joined in. The goal: repeat offenders should be punished more severely and prosecuted. What was not an issue when the system was introduced, however, is that even the personal details of small children are recorded in the database, as research by this newspaper shows.

Currently, three three-year-olds, two four-year-olds and ten five-year-olds have an entry. After that, the numbers increase rapidly.

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A huge database of personal data

2600 fare dodgers are registered in the age category of six to twelve year olds. At the other end of the scale, things get absurd: a centenarian is at the top of the list. However, goodwill cases are also recorded. So you end up in the database, even though you may not have had to pay a fine. A total of 277,000 personal data are stored.

The issue contains a contradiction. People don’t trust small children to use public transport like adults. But they are registered like adults. And in some cases they are even fined accordingly.

Philipp Hadorn

Philipp Hadorn.

The Solothurn SP National Councillor Philipp Hadorn, central secretary of the transport workers’ union SEV, criticizes the procedure of the Schaffhausen transport companies as "very formalistic". However, he also expresses understanding for the inspectors:

Ueli Stuckelberger

Ueli Stuckelberger.

Ueli Stuckelberger, director of the Association of Public Transport, expresses his personal opinion. You can’t turn the rules upside down because of every individual case, he says. But he wonders whether the regulation is still in keeping with the times: "Today, children and young people are already traveling independently earlier than they were a few years ago."

Can a child sign a bus?

Thierry Burkart, a member of the Aargau FDP National Council, is a lawyer and has a simple answer to the question of whether the Schaffhausen transport companies acted correctly: From a legal point of view, a five-year-old girl is "not yet capable of judgment and therefore not capable of acting," he says. Therefore his signature has no legal effect. In addition, a child at this age is not yet of age to commit a crime, so he or she cannot be punished. "This makes this action by the Schaffhausen transport companies difficult to understand in two respects."The mother should not have had to pay the fine, says Burkart. "Legal considerations aside, the actions of those responsible seem to me to be extremely petty and completely lacking in common sense." (lhn)

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