The Automobile Association (AA) says it is sure that the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) understands that it cannot threaten legal action against motorists unless it intends following through with court action. The AA’s comments follow the issuing of a text message by SANRAL on Tuesday afternoon.
The message, sent to an undisclosed number of Gauteng road users, reads: “We have noted your refusal to pay your outstanding e-toll balance. Your vehicle details are being submitted for listing, and legal action will commence with costs incurred. Call 087 353 1490 Ref…:”
“While it is a legal requirement to pay your e-toll account, it remains each driver’s choice to do so or not. Should SANRAL follow through on these threats, it will be left to the driver to defend themselves in court,” the AA warned.
It appears that SANRAL has appointed a debt-collection agency to manage this process for them, adding yet another layer to the costs of collection, which are already unnecessarily high.
“It is extremely disappointing that SANRAL has gone this route without first resolving their billing problems. A number of Gauteng drivers have been questioning their bills but have not received satisfactory replies, if they’ve received any replies at all. Many people are also still not receiving invoices or statements but may have received these text messages which is unreasonable,” the AA noted.
In addition, the AA said, these messages come on the back of recent reports in the press that some people have noticed zero-balances on their e-toll accounts, but have not received any explanations from SANRAL. Our understanding from ETC, the company responsible for collections, is that these billing inconsistencies apparently relate to the splitting of customer accounts to reflect pre- and post September 2015 accounts.
“We have previously said that we support initiatives to improve roads in all provinces, but funding these improvements through e-tolls is not the answer. The unnecessary administrative costs, which are escalating with this type of approach, place an extra burden on already over-extended motorists,” said the AA.
The issuing of the text messages comes a day before the Department of Transport issued a much-demanded 30-day extension for public comment on the amendment of the AARTO Act.
This amendment to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO Act) intends to include e-toll infringements as part of road traffic offences. Essentially this means that any person who has an outstanding e-toll account will be fined for non-payment of their account. If they fail to pay these fines, once the AARTO infringement notice has been escalated to an enforcement order, they will be unable to renew a vehicle or driver’s license, once it expires.
The AA believes this process will be too cumbersome to manage for the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) – which manages the AARTO system. In addition it will transfer SANRAL’s collections function to another governmental agency, which we don’t believe has the capacity to deal with it.
The public now has until 11 March to make submissions to the proposed change to the AARTO Act.
“Given SANRAL’s extremely negative public image, and the poor uptake of the Gauteng e-tolls system, we find SANRAL’s approach counter-productive. We would have preferred a less aggressive, more inclusive approach to resolving the current non-payment impasse,” the AA said.
And now – also problems with automated Toll Plaza payments says OUTA.
Subsequent to Sanral’s claims of a successful launch of e-tag lanes at a number of its conventional boom-down plazas, OUTA has received many e-mails from e-Tagged motorists complaining about double charges at these toll-plazas.
These motorists said they had paid at the cash booth and were also charged on their e-Toll accounts. It appears that the e-tag readers have registered their vehicle, despite them not using the e-tagged lanes at these plazas. Some complained that this situation had also led to their e-Toll account been completely drained and their accounts were subsequently moved into SANRAL’s Violations Processing Centre.
These complaints were also raised by car rental customers, who also paid cash at these toll plazas, only to find the car rental company had also charged them, as the company’s e-Tagged vehicle had registered an electronic charge as well.
The members of the public also informed OUTA that when they raised this issue with SANRAL and the car rental companies, they were asked to provide proof of the cash payment in the form of an invoice or receipt from the toll plaza. These members explained that the common habit is not to collect cash receipts when paying cash at these conventional plazas, making it impossible to provide this proof. “The number of complaints we have received makes this ‘double billing’ problem far too serious for Sanral to ignore,” says Wayne Duvenage, the Chairperson of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
In addition, some motorists have also complained to OUTA that certain conventional toll plazas had a lot of congestion at the ‘pay-booth’ lanes, which appeared to them as being a deliberate attempt by toll companies to cause congestion in these cash pay-lanes, so as to ‘encourage’ road users to get tagged and make use of the less congested electronic lanes.
“In effect, the economic benefits of the faster tolled routes are being lost due to the queues developing at these toll-plazas. Customers are telling us they refuse to register for electronic tags for any tolled routes, as this is merely one of SANRAL’s tactics to coerce road users to become linked to the irrational and illegally introduced Gauteng e-toll scheme,” says Duvenage. Source: OUTA