Inefficient European governments

European governments often still reside in the pre-internet age. They simply can’t get their heads around the fact that a lot of services can now be done on-line, including collecting taxes, fines, etc.

I encountered some striking examples of this earlier this week. Last summer my daughter, who is a violinist, attended a music festival in Casalmaggiore, near Parma in Italy. We flew to Miland and hired a car to get there. While my daughter was studying and performing with her violin professor, we went to explore the surrounding area and ended up in Parma.

Being not familiar with the situation in Parma I must have drifted into a bus lane and got photographed. As government wheels run slowly I only got the fine 8 months later. I know, they need to work out I hired a care, get my details from the rental company and send me a letter. A lot of work that takes time…..

The big surprise to me was that I could pay the fine through a rather basic looking site.

The whole process was outsourced and was flawless. Fine paid in no time. The only thing that would need addressing are the funny translations on the site. They could have used some decent translators, but I worked it out anyway.

Now, look at the United Kingdom. The country where we are based is meant to be a leader when it comes to the internet. As an internet company handling a lot of personal data falls under the Data Protection Act. As this is another reason for the government to levy some tax, we need to pay a small amount each year. No problem.

The real “problem” is that the Information Commissioner, who rules the roost over loads of internet and other companies, sends out a letter via Royal Mail notifying us that we need to pay. OK, not the most advanced way of doing this, but at least it arrives, just like the letter from Parma.

When it comes to paying, the Information Commission is equally ancient. There are two ways we can pay this is, either via a cheque (This is piece of paper onto which you write the amount you want to pay to someone, which they can then take to bank to cash it. That’s how they did it in centuries gone by.) or via direct debit, which is a slightly more modern way.

“Information Commissioner”. “Controls data on the internet”. “Pay by cheque”. Have they never actually looked at what can be done via the internet? Don’t they know you can pay over the internet? It would save them a lot of money if they would do so. But I guess that’s where the problem lies. They employ to many people shuffling bits and pieces of paper. Doing it in a more efficient way would undermine their red tape business model.

Oh well. I stuck the only cheque I write out each year in an envelope and put it in the post. They’ll probably receive it in a week’s time and it’ll probably not leave our bank account for another 2 weeks. Great for our bank balance! Not so great for theirs…..


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