File photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - All e-toll bills issued so far are illegal because Sanral’s gantry equipment isn’t legally certified.

This was the assertion by the Freedom Front Plus on Monday when the party submitted a formal complaint to the National Consumer Commission on Gauteng’s controversial freeway tolling system.

This came on the same day that Sanral’s special e-tolls discount campaign started in yet another attempt to get recalcitrant motorists to pay up.

The FF+ asked the NCC to rule that all e-toll bills issued since the gantries were switched on in December, 2013 were illegal, that those who had paid should be refunded, and to get an order enforcing this from the Consumer Tribunal if necessary.

“The implications will be huge,” said FF+ MP advocate Anton Alberts. “It means that people can now legally stop paying bills, not only because they think it is morally incorrect but because it is legally correct not to pay your bills, and those who have already paid can start instituting legal proceedings to claim their money back,” .

He said this was also a criminal offence on the part of the South African National Roads Agency Limited.

But Sanral seemed unfazed.

“We are not going to litigate through the press,” said Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona, adding that the FF+ had previously lost legal action against Sanral over e-tolls, but that any complaint would be dealt with on merit.

“We will meet in court.”

NOT CERTIFIED

Alberts said the Legal Metrology Act required calibration and certification of all toll-measuring equipment. This is the same law that requires speed cameras to be calibrated and certified before they can be used.

The FF+ submitted the complaint after the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications confirmed that the e-toll system was not certified.

“The NRCS duly replied that no e-toll equipment has been certified and that no request was made to do so,” Alberts told the NCC in his complaint.

“The NRCS indicated that Sanral requested exemption from this requirement, but the NRCS declined this request.”

NRCS chief executive Asogan Moodley told Alberts in his reply that there was no technical regulation yet for the e-toll cameras – such as how the cameras measure vehicle length and type to determine toll fees – so they couldn’t be certified.

“The NRCS is in contact with Sanral and will, as soon as these requirements and conditions are set and agreed upon, lodge a request to the SABS for the development of a South African national standard,” said Moodley.

The NCC couldn’t confirm receipt of the complaint, so didn’t wish to comment on Monday.

BIG SHORTFALL

Alberts said there were informal indications that the complaint “will fall on fertile ground”. He hoped for a response within weeks from the NCC but said it could take up to a year for Sanral to get the system certified.

“The law doesn’t allow backdating,” Alberts noted.

The FF+ is considering doing a similar assessment of other toll systems.

Sanral’s 60 percent discounts on unpaid e-toll accounts started on monday. This is a discount offered only on e-toll bills run up by 31 August 2015. The discount period runs from 2 November to 2 May 2016 next year and is offered only if the full outstanding bill is being paid.

Sanral has been struggling to get motorists to pay up ever since the gantries were switched on in December 2013.

Earlier this year, Parliament was told that e-toll payments for the first four months of the year totalled about R240 million, or an average of about R60 million a month.

While this was higher than Sanral’s revised predictions, it falls short of the R270m a month that the National Treasury had in 2012 told the Constitutional Court Sanral was banking on.

This year’s income is about half the cost of the monthly costs of operating the e-tolls system.

In 2012, the Ministry of Transport told Parliament that the projected income from e-tolls was R2.5 billion for 2014.

The e-toll operations’ costs were expected to be R1.4 billion and the cost of road maintenance R374million for the year.

The Star

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