Pay or else, say e-toll bill bullies

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IOl mot pic dec19 Cornelia van Niekerk 1

INLSA

Cornelia van Niekerk of Fines 4 U said her cellphone rang nonstop on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Collingridge

A woman who runs a pay-fine company said she received 32 phone calls from the electronic toll collection violations centre on Wednesday, demanding payment for unpaid e-toll fees.

Cornelia van Niekerk of Fines 4 U acts as a proxy for more than 80 companies, dealing with the paying of traffic fines for company vehicle fleets.

She said her cellphone rang nonstop on Wednesday morning, each call from a different person, saying her e-toll bills had been sent to the violations centre because they were unpaid.

Van Niekerk recorded the conversations, in which each time the call centre agent repeatedly advises her to register the vehicles so she can see invoices, and asks her to give them her e-mail address so they can send her the invoices electronically.

In one call from a woman named Portia, Van Niekerk asked her how many people worked at the call centre. The woman replied “more than 80”, and asked why Van Niekerk wanted to know.

Van Niekerk told her that this was the 32nd call she had received, and each time she had spoken to a different person.

The call centre agent informed her that she had an e-toll bill of more than R2000 and Van Niekerk asked her how she would be able to verify these amounts if she had not received an invoice.

Van Niekerk said that in all the conversations, it was clear that no invoices had yet been sent out.

The call centre agent told her it would take time to send out invoices and encouraged Van Niekerk to register with them to make the process easier.

Van Niekerk refused to register.

The call centre agent asked her for an e-mail address where she could send the invoices.

Van Niekerk refused to give her an e-mail address, to which Portia replied: “How can I send you the invoices without an e-mail address?”

Van Niekerk told her to post the account and she was then asked for her postal address, and Van Niekerk responded that they should do their job and find her address on the eNatis system.

She said all the vehicles the violations centre were calling about she had registered on the PayMyFines website, and she believed the ETC had got her cellphone number from there.

DETAILS HANDED OVER

On Wednesday it was revealed that users who had registered on the website, which is owned by TMT Services (Pty) Ltd, the South African company owned by Kaupsch TrafficCom, which runs the ETC, had their details handed over to the ETC.

TMT Services chief executive Douglas Davey said the terms and conditions on their website specifically indicates that PayMyFines reserves the right to access and disclose individual identifying information to parties. He said this excluded confidential financial information.

South African National Roads Agency Limited spokesman Vusi Mona admitted there was a call centre operating, but all he would say about the phone calls was that customers must call their call centre if they had any billing problems, rather than speaking to a third party.

“They are in a massive pickle to attain their financial targets.”

Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance spokesman Wayne Duvenage said it had always maintained that e-tolling was an administrative burden and said the phone calls showed that Sanral was trying to get people to register for e-tolls.

He said Outa’s website was flooded with messages of complaint from road users.

Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembovsky said the ETC was jumping the gun, putting people onto the debt-collection processes before invoices had been sent, which he said was breaking the law.

“What company will make payment without a tax invoice?” he asked.

The Justice Project has written to TMT Services demanding that it stop giving out personal details or face an interdict. - The Star


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