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Two years ago, my wife and I rented a car in Italy. A year later, the rental company charged my credit card $65 three different times as fees for getting photo-enforcement tickets (something about being in a certain area of a city at the wrong time). That was just their penalty fee, not the actual tickets. When the Italian police finally sent me the three tickets, they said I owed $540, including late fees. I decided not to pay because I didn't really know what I had done wrong. This month, I received a letter from an Edmonton collection agency hired by the Italian police. If I don’t pay by the end of the month, they say the debt will be reported to my credit rating. Can they do that? – Josh, Regina

When it comes to traffic tickets and your credit rating, what happens in Italy, or anywhere else, should stay there.

Equifax, one of the two national credit bureaus in Canada, says that traffic tickets shouldn’t affect your credit rating.

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“It is our standard practice to advise collection agencies to remove tickets relating to motor vehicle offences from their data submission to Equifax,” it said in an e-mail statement.

TransUnion Canada, the other credit bureau, says photo-radar tickets – or any other ticket where police didn’t verify your identity in-person, including parking tickets – shouldn’t appear on your credit file. It also says that any debts owed to anyone outside Canada shouldn’t affect your credit rating, unless a judgement was made by a Canadian court.But Traffic tickets can end up on credit reports, even if they’re not supposed to.

Traffic tickets can end up on credit reports, even if they’re not supposed to.

“There are numerous stories of European and other countries resorting to collections agencies to recover out of town traffic fines,” said Michelle Pommells, CEO of Credit Counselling Canada, in an e-mail. “In the long term, unpaid out-of-town fines could potentially affect your credit rating.”

Equifax says it’s a good idea to check your credit file. If you see unpaid tickets on it, call Equifax to dispute it.

Vacation photos?

It’s not unusual for vacationers to get photo-enforcement tickets as unexpected souvenirs, rental car companies say.

For instance, in Italy, you’re not allowed to drive in 'zona a traffico limitato’ (ZTL) zones, which are typically found in historic city centres, during certain hours unless you have a permit.

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While there are signs, usually in Italian, your car’s GPS might send you into these areas.

Photo-enforcement tickets, including photo-radar and red light camera tickets, get sent to the owner of the car – so, to the rental company.

Depending on the country, the rental car company may pay the ticket and then charge the amount onto your credit card.

In the European Union, police can order rental car companies to share your home address.

Even though police will send you the ticket directly and the rental car company is off the hook for it, the rental car company can still charge you an administrative fee.

“If a customer gets a ticket in another country, they are still responsible for payment,” said Abby Campbell, a spokeswoman for Avid Budget Group, in an e-mail.

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The ticket may tell you how to dispute it, and that may come with court costs, even if you do it by mail. In the case of the Italian ticket, the letter will have to be in Italian.

Once it goes to collections, there might not be much you can do to lower it.

The Edmonton collections agency and the Citta della Riviera del Brenta, the union of municipalities near Venice that issued the tickets, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Those tickets shouldn’t affect your driving history here, though.

Generally, tickets in other countries won’t appear on your Canadian driving record.

The only exceptions? Ontario shares ticket information with New York and Michigan. Quebec shares it with New York and Maine.

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But that only applies to tickets that officers give you in person. Because they’re sent to the car’s registered owner, photo-enforcement tickets don’t come with demerits and they don’t appear on your driving record.

Editor’s note: This version has been updated with a statement from TransUnion Canada.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.

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