N.C. Turnpike Authority double-bills hundreds of E-ZPass toll road drivers [The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)]
(News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 30--RALEIGH -- At least 800 drivers on the Triangle Expressway have been double-billed this month, paying electronic tolls twice for every trip, the N.C. Turnpike Authority says.
And at least one of them was charged three times for a single trip.
Dane Berglund, who runs the turnpike customer service center in Morrisville, blamed the errors on drivers who have two transponders in their cars -- an N.C. Quick Pass, designed for North Carolina's toll road, and an E-ZPass, used to pay for trips on toll roads in 14 states from Virginia to Maine and Illinois.
"The 800 customers had double-billing charges incurred because they had two transponders on their windshield, or one of them in the glove box," Berglund said. "If they have an N.C. Quick Pass sticker on the windshield, they need to remove the E-ZPass and take it out of their car completely, or put it in a non-read bag."
Perry Safran of Raleigh, vice-chairman of the Turnpike Authority board, said it was important to fix the double-billing problem.
"We're in the trust business, and we've got to correct this," Safran said. "And I'm sure it will be."
The problem started on the morning of Jan. 3, when North Carolina began accepting toll payments from drivers with E-ZPass transponders.
For a year before that -- since January 2012, when the first section of TriEx opened to traffic in Research Triangle Park and western Wake County -- the only accepted transponder was North Carolina's Quick Pass. Drivers without the Quick Pass received bills in the mail, based on photos of their license plates, and they paid tolls at higher rates.
Drivers with transponders are charged electronically through debit accounts with the toll agency, with a payment made every time the transponder-equipped car travels past a toll-road sensor. Many Triangle drivers have E-ZPass transponders attached to their windshields with Velcro strips, and some of them also had Quick Pass windshield stickers.
The transponders have RFID (radio frequency identification) chips that can be detected by toll road technology unless they are sealed in silvery "no-read" bags. In the fine-print terms-and-conditions document that every customer receives, Berglund said, there are instructions to carry no more than one transponder in the car.
"Folks obviously did not take the time to read the terms and conditions," Berglund said.
He said the Turnpike Authority discovered the 800 double-billed customers after it began receiving complaints. Their accounts will be credited with the overpayments, he said, and all Quick Pass customers will receive letters admonishing them to avoid having more than one transponder in the car.
Paul Rudovsky of Pinehurst said he was double-billed through both transponders for trips on Jan. 9, Jan. 13, Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 -- a total of $5.75 he paid twice.
"I called and said, 'I think I've been double-charged,'" said Rudovsky, 69. "She said, 'Yes, you will be double charged if you have both transponders.' I was speechless."
Rudovsky said it should be easy for the turnpike authority to recognize that a car has two transponders and to avoid charging the driver more than once.
"People won't know they're double charged," Rudovsky said. "Very few people go into their accounts to see what they're charged. People aren't going to notice until they trip over it later."
Berglund said there was no quick way for the Turnpike Authority to avoid double-billing more cars that travel the toll road with two transponders. He said he hoped to find a fix in the future.
Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/
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