New rules for North Texas Tollway Authority toll fees

Taking a chapter directly from the award-winning book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, here’s how 160 people can make a difference.

For the past year, Watchdog Nation urged anyone who believed they were unfairly charged by the North Texas Tollway Authority to complain to state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.

The final total of complainers was 160. We know that because throughout the legislative history of Senate Bill 469, there were numerous references made in descriptions of the bill to “160 constituents” who contacted Nelson about NTTA problems.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong

As readers of the Dave Lieber Watchdog column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first learned, we gave the senator the ammunition she needed for change.


Dave Lieber’s book explains how to do this in a chapter titled:

Make a difference by getting involved

If you want to fight back against a particular industry or company that has mistreated you, here’s how you can make a difference.

Find a citizens watchdog group that tries to raise public awareness about problems in that industry. These groups, typically, also lobby state and federal lawmakers to change laws regulating the industry so they are more favorable to consumers.

Most of these organizations have a national headquarters and then state and even local chapters.

These groups would love for you to volunteer and help them achieve their pro-consumer goals.

Many of these groups operate on shoestring budgets and don’t have much money for staff. Often, they have just a few paid officials and the remaining members are volunteers.

They go up against lobbying groups that are funded by the industries they serve. These groups often give tremendous amounts of money in campaign donations to lawmakers who write the laws that regulate their industry.

The only counterbalance to big money/backroom power plays are these citizen action groups. Your work with them can make a big difference.


Use an Internet search engine to find a group that is dedicated to fighting a problem that interests you. Type in words like “citizens group” or “consumer rights” and the name of the company or industry involved.

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Most of these North Texas constituents had the same complaint: Tolls costing several dollars had mushroomed into invoices with hundreds of dollars in penalties. Many complainants swore they never received original toll bills in the mail. Some were stunned to learn their cases led to warrants for their arrest. One single mom who said she never got a bill actually went to jail.

Nelson wrote a bill reining in the agency’s byzantine billing practices by placing a cap on the amount that could be charged. Her bill passed the Senate 31-0 and the House 142-0. Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law.

The bill caps the charge for an additional administrative fee at $25 for each unpaid toll invoice, not to exceed $200. Previously, the NTTA charged $25 for every unpaid toll transaction. (A single invoice could contain dozens of toll transactions.)

Bills sometimes ran up to $500 or even a $1,000 or more, based on only a few unpaid bills for inexpensive toll road trips.

The NTTA manages and builds area toll roads. Under its cashless system, toll booths were removed and drivers who do not have TollTags on their front windshields are mailed bills (after five transactions) to the address associated with a vehicle’s license plate.

In June 2011, Nelson said, “This bill protects toll road users from excessive administration fees while still allowing the North Texas Tollway Authority tools to collect delinquent violations. I filed this bill in response to an overwhelming number of complaints from drivers who were furious over exorbitant fees and penalties.”

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, also worked for the bill’s passage.

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Sallie Griffith, a Fort Worth toll road user, testified before a Senate committee on behalf of the bill. After paying a $23 toll bill late, she received “repetitious and confusing” bills, each for a higher amount because of penalties. Her bill came to $954.

Last week she said she was happy with the new bill. “I knew that something needed to be done. It just shows that if people stand up for what they think is right, things can be changed. They can make a difference.”

The NTTA told me last week that the bill “revises the NTTA’s toll collection process, but also protects the NTTA’s paying customers.” The authority is reviewing its billing process and customer service practices to ensure compliance should the bill become law.

“It remains the authority’s goal to collect the tolls for travel on the NTTA system and to encourage all customers to pay on time any fees and fines,” NTTA spokeswoman Susan Slupecki said.

Nelson’s bill originally capped the maximum fee at $25. But NTTA lobbyists managed to water it down in the House and got the cap raised to $200. Still, any kind of cap saves drivers money.

The Watchdog urges anyone who drives on area toll roads to purchase a TollTag for their windshield and make sure there’s enough money in the account to cover charges. That’s what most drivers do.

Remember that it costs half as much to drive on an NTTA toll road with a TollTag as it does to use the NTTA’s pay-by-mail ZipCash system.

To avoid problems, make sure the state Department of Motor Vehicles has the correct mailing address tied to your license plate so any bills arrive at the correct address.

The legislation, if signed into law, will take effect Sept. 1. Before that, though, on July 1, the NTTA is raising its toll charges from 14.5 cents per mile to 15.3 cents.

In the years ahead the NTTA, a quasi-government agency, is set to become even more powerful in North Texas. If they use the toll roads regularly, families could pay hundreds of dollars a month in toll charges.

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Dave Lieber shows Americans how to fight back against corporate deceptions in his wonderful book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. Are you tired of losing time, money and aggravation to all the assaults on our wallets? Learn how to fight back with ease — and win. Get the book here.

Read The Watchdog Nation manifesto here!

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Read previous Watchdog Nation stories about the NTTA:

North Texas Tollway Authority faces legal clampdown

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

After years of treating complaining drivers as if they don’t matter, the monolithic and mostly unregulated North Texas Tollway Authority finds itself pushed up against the wall in the Texas Legislature. It’s not fun on the other side.

Now is the time, if ever, to stop excessive billing practices by the North Texas Tollway Authority

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Two North Texas Tollway Authority customers say they tried to pay their bills, but the NTTA sent them to collection agencies anyway

North Texas Tollway Authority unhappy with our report about woman thrown in jail

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

The North Texas Tollway Authority — NTTA — disputes in detail the recent Dave Lieber report about the single mom who was tossed in jail for 27 hours because of unpaid toll road fines she says she never received. Read the NTTA’s full response and Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber’s response.

Woman goes to jail for unpaid toll bill she says she never received

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

A Texas woman is arrested and thrown in jail for 27 hours. Her crime? She owed an $11 toll road bill that she didn’t pay. She says she never received the notices from the North Texas Tollway Authority. The authority’s chairman says he didn’t know the authority was behind tossing people into jail. A Texas state senator promises to go after the tollway for abusive fine procedures.

Watchdog Nation says: Give ‘em hell, Victor!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

If you hate toll roads, this little story is for you.

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