Accounting glitches on Highway 407 soon to be a thing of the past, Harris pledges (computer problem)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
February 23, 2000
Accounting glitches on Highway 407 soon to be a thing of the past, Harris pledges
LONDON, Ont. (CP) -- The Ontario government is putting a plan in gear to help commuters plagued by phantom fees and errant invoices from the province's only toll highway, says Premier Mike Harris.
The province wants Highway 407's operating consortium to find out why some drivers are being billed for using a road they've never been on, while others never get their invoices, Harris said Wednesday.
Many Ontario motorists are being forced to pay late fees or can't renew their licences as a result of not paying, the premier conceded during a campaign-style tour of this southwestern Ontario city.
"A lot of people have bills and penalties they shouldn't have," he said. "We not only have to do a better job in the future, but we have to clean up this mess now."
The details are still being ironed out, but Harris -- who promised a formal announcement on the matter next week -- said anyone with an incorrect invoice or who's facing penalties as a result of not getting one will not be forced to pay.
Part of the problem arises from the fact that even though it's a privately owned highway, the province still provides licencing information to the operator, 407 ETR Concession Co. Ltd., for enforcement purposes, in exchange for an undisclosed fee.
It's not appropriate for the government to be acting as a powerful collection agency for the company without a quasi-judicial body to ensure the collection measures are justified, said David Leonhardt, an Ontario spokesman for the Canadian Automobile Association.
"There has to be due process in the system," Leonhardt said. If motorists are unable to appeal their penalties, there's no incentive to fix the problem, he added.
"It's a profit centre for them, because they know they will get that money."
The problem isn't just nickels and dimes, either, said Leonhardt. One commuter who complained to the CAA had his vehicle mistakenly classified by the system as a tractor-trailer, and his monthly bill jumped from $30 to more than $800 as a result.
The road north of Toronto is the first fully electronic toll highway in North America, built to ease traffic snarls along Highway 401, Canada's busiest and the only corridor into Canada from Detroit.
Motorists anxious to sort out the confusion have also reported having problems getting through on the company's toll-free phone line.
When complaints began surfacing earlier this year, 407 ETR began upgrading its telephone and computer hardware and hiring more customer service staff to deal with an increase in the volume of calls.
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), February 23, 2000
I am not one to find Y2K issues hiding under EVERY computer bush, as it were, but the last paragraph makes one wonder whether this problem is Y2K-related:
"When complaints began surfacing earlier this year..."
I wish the article gave some indication of how long the highway toll system has been in operation.
As usual, great post. Thanks Homer!
--Andre in southcentral Pennsylvania
-- Andre Weltman (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 25, 2000.
The electronic toll system has been in place since mid-1997.
They had minor billing issues when they first started up - mainly that they were missing people. But I don't recall hearing about any billing problems in 1998 and 1999. Must be squirrels messing around with the cameras. Or the unexpected cold weather. Or the warm weather. Who knows.
-- Jo Anne Slaven (email@example.com), February 25, 2000.