MOTORISTS have been urged to apply for e-tag refunds – and if they do, it could cost the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) R25 million to pay them back.
Sanral’s terms and conditions stated that it could take up to two months before the customer was refunded, said Cliff Johnston, of the SA National Consumer Union.
That is why it was imperative that e-tag holders applied for a refund as soon as possible. He said the issue of whether the e-toll project would start or not “will not be resolved in the near future”.
The most recent official figures show that about half-a-million motorists had registered for the system. This means that if 500 000 customers requested a refund at R50 an e-tag, Sanral would have to pay out R25m.
Johnston said Sanral was meant to have invested the e-tag money separately and have it available for refunds as the cash is considered to be a deposit in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
The roads agency had a legal obligation to meet all refund requests, but, he said, Sanral was “sitting” on customers’ money.
Sanral has appealed for customers to keep their e-tags.
“We would like to encourage you to keep your e-toll account open until the final decision has been reached in court,” said Sanral’s website after the high court’s decision last week to investigate the roll-out of the e-tag toll project.
Meanwhile, the roads agency took another financial hit last week when Moody’s Investors Service, a credit rating agency, downgraded its credit rating for the second month in a row. The agency is also R20 billion in debt over the cost of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which was to have been serviced, in part, by the e-toll system.
Moody’s estimated that Sanral’s debt could grow to R100m for every month the e-tolling is delayed.
But Brad Smith, a registered e-tag customer, said: “As much as I don’t want to pay for the tolls, it’s not worth returning it on a whim that this will go away.”
Staff at the e-tag kiosk in Killarney Mall, Joburg, said they had not heard of any directive nor had anybody arrived to return an e-tag or demand a refund.
Meanwhile, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, which brought the e-toll matter to court, is asking for donations to cover
its legal fees.
The total cost of the case comes to R3.9m, nearly four times what the alliance had estimated – and the alliance’s legal team needed to start receiving payment by July.
“It was a far bigger task than we ever expected. It became a huge case,” said Wayne Duvenage, the alliance’s chairman.
He said they had eventually needed a legal team working “day and night” for weeks in order to meet deadlines for the case.
Members of the SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association had already donated R800 000, which means the alliance is short of R3.1m.
“It gives ownership and I can imagine an individual giving R50 and thinking ‘I’m part of this case’. It personalises the donation,” said Duvenage.
The alliance is appealing for people to go to its website (www.outa.co.za) for details on how to donate. Its banking details are: Absa, Rosebank, branch number 632005, account number 4079154375.
Contributions of R20 can be made by sending an SMS with the word NOETOLL to 40773.
Sanral, whose CEO Nazir Alli resigned earlier this week, did not respond to requests for comment.