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DRIVING

Driving in Spain: The five new fines traffic authorities want to roll out in September

Spain’s DGT traffic authority is putting the finishing touches to a set of new fines for drivers in the country which could be approved in September 2021. 

Driving in Spain: The five new fines traffic authorities want to roll out in September
Spain's traffic authority is looking for approval from the Spanish Parliament to introduce five new fines from September 2021 onwards. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

Spain’s General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) is looking for approval from the Spanish parliament to introduce five new fines as well as other amendments to the country’s traffic code. 

One of the main purposes of these changes is to find ways to reduce the environmental impact of the 29.4 million vehicles in circulation in the country. 

Article 2 of Spain’s traffic code would therefore include as punishable offences actions considered of “unnecessary damage or inconvenience to the environment”, whereas the previous wording only addressed negligence towards humans and property. 

One of the new penalties that could come into force relates to this reinforced protection for the environment, although as we will see now, all other new fines (multas in Spanish) are focused primarily on improving road safety. 

Not switching off the engine when the vehicle is stationary or parked 

The DGT wants to prevent unnecessary emissions by requiring drivers to switch off their engine while the vehicle isn’t moving. 

After parking or temporarily stopping, drivers will have a maximum of two minutes in which they can keep their engines running if they want to avoid a €100 fine. 

This would apply even if the drivers and passengers remained inside the vehicle. 

The DGT hasn’t clarified yet if this new rule would apply when vehicles are stuck in traffic. 

Holding a mobile phone even if you’re not using it 

Spanish traffic authorities keep looking for ways to dissuade drivers from getting distracted by their mobile phones.

Last May, they announced their intention to start fining drivers who have their phones close to them even if they’re not technically using them.

The DGT now wants to widen the criteria of punishable mobile-related offences to include holding a mobile phone while driving, even if it’s not being looked at or used. 

The proposed penalty is the loss of 3 to 6 points off drivers’ licences, as well as €100 fine. 

This summer, drivers in Spain were warned by the DGT that using mobile devices (including GPSs and headphones) while driving is already considered a punishable offence which leads to a €200 fine and the loss of 3 points off one’s driving licence.  

Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay

Surpassing speed limit when overtaking on secondary roads 

This has been the plan by Spain’s DGT since it toughened penalties and speed limits in late 2020. 

Now it seems increasingly likely that from September, vehicles in Spain won’t be able to surpass the speed limit at all when overtaking on secondary roads, whereas currently it is still allowed by up to 20km/h when safe to do so.

Although the fines have not yet been mentioned, penalties for speeding on carreteras convencionales currently range from €100 for surpassing the limit by between 21 and 40km/h to €600 and the loss of 6 points for surpassing the speed by 71km/h. 

Carreteras convencionales, high-capacity single-carriageway roads which are a step down from motorways (with lanes in both directions, with or without separating barriers) are where 77 percent of fatal road accidents take place in Spain, according to DGT data. They often run parallel to the motorways and connect different urban areas.

Photo: Juanecd/Flickr

Back in May, DGT head Pere Navarro suggested that there will also be a speed limit drop on carreteras convencionales, the country’s secondary roads, where the current speed is 90km/h in most cases.

“It should be 70km/h on these roads, that would be the ideal speed,” Navarro said at the time, although there is no evidence this will be included in this latest proposal of new fines and changes to Spain’s traffic code.

Having a speed camera detector in your vehicle

It is already illegal to use a speed camera detector in your car in Spain, with fines of €6,000 and the loss of 6 driving licence points for those caught red handed. 

What the DGT is now proposing is that simply having one of these devices installed in your vehicle should be enough to be handed a fine, even if police don’t catch offenders in the act. 

The proposed penalty is the loss of 3 points of one’s licence and a €500 fine. 

Not wearing a helmet while riding an e-scooter

The proliferation of electric scooters and similar micro-mobility devices across Spain keeps forcing the DGT to keep adjusting its legislation for this new and still relatively unregulated means of transport to be accounted for. 

Photo: Juan MABROMATA/AFP

Since January 2021, e-scooter users have been banned from riding on the pavement, have a maximum speed limit of 25km/h and require a driving certificate, not that the evidence suggests that these measures are being policed properly across Spain. 

Now the DGT wants to make it compulsory for these e-riders to wear a helmet or face a penalty of €200.

Member comments

  1. Good intentions, no doubt. However, the problem is enforcement. Here in Marbella, speeding on AP-7 as well as on secondary roads is the norm. I have never seen police doing speed control. Driving while holding a mobile phone in one hand is common. Few drivers bother signalling when turning. Parking next to a no parking/stopping sign especially on roundabouts as well as double parking and blocking the lane is standard practice. Police often just pass by without bothering to issue tickets. Introducing new “punishable offences” is purely an academic exercise and looks good on paper but is pretty useless in practice.

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ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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