In an effort to cut down on traffic congestion around highway toll booths, especially in the New York metropolitan area, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey created the E-Z Pass, which now extends from Virginia to Illinois.
Although discussions of creating an electronic toll pay system started in the 80s, it wasn't until 1991 that E-Z pass was introduced to a portion of the public.
Since that time many consumers have enjoyed racing through tolls by just pointing their E-Z Pass at the digital reader, but many have found the system to be quite flawed.
E-Z Pass customers complain that the system shortchanges them and wrongfuly penalizes them for not paying tolls. E-Z Pass did not return or acknowledge calls from ConsumerAffairs requesting comment on the allegations in this article.
Levon of New York City received a Port Authority violation letter saying he didn't pay a toll at the Holland Tunnel, between New York and New Jersey, he said in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs. Although Levon noticed the charge deducted on his bank statement, he was still penalized the standard $50, for the $7.50 toll. ($9.50 during peak hours).
Mark of New Jersey also went through a toll and paid, but still received a violation notice with a penalty fee, he said. This happened twice at the same toll plaza, and Mark believes the E-Z Pass mechanism within the toll both malfunctioned. A countless number of consumers have been unjustly fined for the same occurrence, according to press reports.
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ConsumerAffairs contacted Mark to learn more about his fight with E-Z Pass, and how successful he was in getting the penalty fee removed.
"There are three violations now since I wrote the complaint," said Mark. "I still haven't figured out the root of the problem."
Also since Mark filed his complaint with ConsumerAffairs, he went to several toll plazas in New Jersey and his E-Z Pass read just fine. What's also fishy is that when Mark went to the E-Z Pass website there was no listing of his fine. But when he phoned the toll company's automated system, the fine was there. There's an obvious inconsistency in E-Z Pass' billing system, so consumers should be sure to check both E-Z Pass' systems to make sure payments, fines and personal car information match up.
As far as the questionable charge, Mark says he refuses to take it lying down, as the situation will only worsen. "I didn't want to ignore it," he said. "Because they'll go to the collection agency."
Mark also believes that something is not quite right with E-Z Pass. He said that when he receives penalty letters for different violations, it looks like the exact same picture of his car on each letter.
"How do I know it's not the same picture on each notice," he said. "It's a money-making scheme. "Basically it's a random flagging for people that are hurried or busy, and may not pay attention [to the violation letters]. It's a profit center."
Mark said his attempts at speaking with a live person were unsuccessful, and he finally left a message on E-Z Pass' automated system. He continues to challenge the penalty.
Class action filed
In 2010, a group of horse owners from New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the toll company, along with the Delaware River Port Authority, for being unfairly charged while crossing the Commodore Barry Bridge, which provides connection between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
For each trip, Jude Mikolajczyk, of New Jersey, was charged $24 ($12 each way) on her way to Harrah's Chester Racetrack in Chester, PA, which is four times more than she would have paid a human toll collector.
She said her truck and horse trailer were misweighed, thus overcharging Mikolajczyk for each trip she traveled on her way to showcase her horses. Upon research she learned that several horse owners in her area were also overcharged. The group of horse owners have started a lawsuit to win back their money for each overcharge, plus triple damages and legal fees.
It's important for drivers to learn the exact costs of each toll charge according to the weight of their vehicles, and pay strict attention to what's being charged each month on their statement. Mikolajczyk didn't realize until almost a year later that she was being overcharged. Her case is still pending.
Consumers can challenge incorrect charges by phoning E-Z Pass' customer service number at, 1-800-333-TOLL (8655). Although Mark had trouble speaking to someone live, it's still worth the effort so you can start your appeal.
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