Toll Charge Resolution Portal Coming Soon for TIADA Members
Last summer, a TIADA member in east Texas received bills from the North Texas Toll Authority and from TxTag. The bills were tied to a dealer agent tag that the dealer believes was photographed and replicated. The tag expired in May 2017, long before the tag numbers began running up toll charges in cities that are over 100 miles away from the dealership.
After filing a police report in Dallas for theft of tag, the dealer called both toll agencies' customer service departments. Neither was helpful, initially. According to the dealer, the NTTA service representative asked for a title history. How could the dealer produce a title history for a vehicle that he never owned? If such a document could be produced, then where should it be sent? In what format?
In September, CBS DFW approached this dealer as part of an investigative report into fake paper license plates. CBS learned of the dealer after law enforcement provided a copy of a fraudulent dealer agent tag that had the East Texas dealership name on it. The story aired on CBS 11 in late September. NTTA and TxTag sent bills to the dealer for toll charges incurred on the fake tag, which was prominently displayed during the broadcast. After this, a new (fake) plate popped up, this one with a new tag number.
Even with a police report and an investigative report, NTTA and TxTag customer service representatives refused to remove toll charges incurred on the fake dealer agent tags.
The dealer called TIADA's Compliance Consultation Service in late March, 2018. TIADA contacted both NTTA and TxDOT (parent of TxTag). Within two hours, TxDOT spoke to the dealer, waived the improper tolls, and forwarded the information to NTTA. Six days later, NTTA responded to TIADA. The response was considerably different than that of TxDOT.
A Challenge with Many Parts
TIADA decided that dealer members need a way to obtain the efficient and professional resolution to fraudulent toll charges that TxDOT provided.
Most Texas toll agencies are aware of the rampant proliferation of fake paper license plates. One could point to the ease with which the fake plates can be created, or to the duty of law enforcement to investigate criminal theft and fraud. However, neither the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles nor local law enforcement agencies can force the toll agencies to take action on behalf of dealers falling victim to tag fraud. This is the purview of the individual toll agency, which creates their own policies for ensuring that the person charged for toll road usage is the person who actually used the road.
The agencies understand well the limitations of front-line customer service staff; after all, they do not deal with auto dealers on a regular basis. Moreover, front-line staff may not know what documents a dealer could submit to demonstrate that toll charges are improper. If they did know which documents were acceptable, then they may not know how a dealer should submit them. Meanwhile, every day that passes brings additional fees and penalties for unpaid tolls. It also increases the likelihood that the unpaid tolls will be referred to a collection agency. This can be alleviated by (1) making sure that each agency's process for addressing fraudulent toll charges is known; (2) identifying one person at each agency who will facilitate the resolution of a dealer's complaint; and (3) connecting the dealer and the agency representative as soon as possible.
The association decided to create the Toll Charge Resolution Portal. This online form will allow members to enter information about toll charges that the dealer believes are fraudulent. Once submitted, TIADA will route the form to the appropriate toll agency. At participating agencies, a designated representative will then contact the dealer and work on a solution.
As of now, three toll authorities have committed to participate in the portal: TxDOT, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, and Harris County Toll Road Authority. These agencies demonstrated an enthusiasm and willingness to help that genuinely impressed TIADA staff.
The portal will launch in August 2018.
Dealers should continue to contact TIADA when they receive toll statements that appear to include improper charges. Staff will work directly with all toll agencies to help resolve issues. In the meantime, take the following steps to help reduce your exposure to surprising toll bills:.
- Make sure that you are the only person who can access your eTag User ID.
- You can create sub-user IDs within your eTag account. This way, you know exactly who created an eTag that has been copied without authorization.
- Print only the number of eTags that you need.
- Void out any tags that you put on vehicles that are going to the auction.
- Make sure that your employees remove the paper tags once the cars arrive at auction, just in case someone forgets to void the eTag online.
- Assign expiration dates to all dealer agent tags.
- Review all dealer agent tags that you provide to your employees on a weekly basis.
- If you discover an issue, access the eTag system and immediately void any compromised tags.
- Notify TXDMV as soon as you discover an issue.
- Notify law enforcement, either your local police or the police in the area where the toll charges arose, the moment you receive a toll bill that has improper charges.
- Give the date of the first improper toll unless the toll charge is for an eTag that you previously voided. In that case, give the date that you voided the eTag.
- Request a report number, incident number, or some other indication that you reported the problem.
Representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation's Toll Operations Division and the North Texas Tollway Authority will be speaking at this year's Annual Conference & Expo in Dallas, taking place from July 29 - 31. Come listen to them give advice for resolving these types of charges and see a special sneak peek of the TIADA Toll Charge Resolution Portal. Don't miss out, REGISTER TODAY!
The TIADA Toll Charge Resolution Portal will make its debut in August. Stay tuned for more information coming soon.