Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Call customer service..."

Turnpike authority director talks about tolls


By: Bob Robuck
Copyright 2009

Over the past few weeks, News 8 received quite a few e-mails from people, saying, after six months of receiving no notice from TxDOT, they suddenly received packets of bills with administrative fees attached. Many of the complaints come from customers who had already purchased a toll road pass, or a TxTag.

"Of all the calls that come into our call center, only about 5 percent are related to some kind of toll dispute," Tomlinson said. "Probably the biggest concern we had was we did have a slight problem with addresses in our vehicle title registration database."

Tomlinson said they cleared up that problem several months later and the fix should help with the billing process.

But, some people continue to say they have problems they just can't get solved, and that 5 percent that Tomlinson mentions still means millions of dollars in revenue.

"We have our customer service centers," Tomlinson said. "They're available to folks to handle any kind of dispute."

Most of the people who've e-mailed News 8 say their problems are with customer service, even at the higher levels and on up to actual TxDOT employees.

"I'm happy to talk to somebody if we haven't been able to do what people think is right," Tomlinson said.

When asked why it took News 8 nearly a month to talk to Tomlinson, he said "that's why we have all those levels in between."

Samone Murray, was one of the people profiled in an earlier report on toll road complaints. Murray got a TxTag and was billed six months later, with packets of toll invoices. She said customer service still can't fully explain the discrepancies.

Murray's toll charges are just a few hundred dollars, but the administrative fees TxDOT levied against her are in the thousands.

A TxDOT media representative said that Murray was offered to have those violations waived, but Murray said nobody ever called her. She's now retaining a lawyer. Her bill is now over $13,000.

When asked what Murray should do, Tomlinson said he would "invite her to call back to the customer service center."

Murray said her problem is with customer service, as they tell her that she doesn't owe anything and then somebody else increases her balance due over the phone.

"My advise to her would be to call our TxDOT representative at the customer service center," Tomlinson said. "I would say 5.5 million people went through the toll road this past month, and they didn't e-mail you because they were pleased with the service."

To those who aren't pleased, he said "call us back, let us work with you."

Part two of this interview will focus on the actual penalties TxDOT assesses, why they are so high, and how TxDOT justifies them.

© 2009 News 8 Austin:

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