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.

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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.

Get the book here.

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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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Comments

  1. W.E. Duff says:

    I have waited 12 days for the tag to arrive. The web site says 7-10. I was told today (Saturday July 30) to wait until Monday and then request another tag. They have charged my credit card, have my money and failed to provide the requested product. Texas toll roads are no better than in Oklahoma.

  2. I tried several times to contact them to attach the tag I purchased to my Dad's old truck I purchased after he passed away. They said they could not because they had a registered toll-road tag (from the Houston toll road system) on the truck already and I would have to have the owner of that tag call in and cancel it on the truck… Please inform me on how to get my deceased father to call them…
    I did this call several times to no avail.
    so I could never officially attach my tag to my truck (of 3 years now).
    But they can obviously see the truck is registered to me via the state of Texas, but the fact that the state says this is my vehicle is not enough for them to to get their little stupid tag registered to me. F'ing ridiculous. So I cannot make prepayments on the tag and even when I stop and pay at a toll booth I get charged for it! not $20 in tolls is billed to me at over $1000
    How can I fight this! I never signed an agreement to this fine structure!

  3. I'm another "never received an NTTA bill" until yesterday when I received a pile of invoices going back a year and a half for $700+ due–IN FIVE DAYS. New to the area, there were no clear instructions on how your toll system works down here (poorly, apparently) so I've continued to take 121 to work, and any visitors we've had from out of state are also bewildered and frightened about not seeing any obvious way to pay the tolls. NTTA sits on my tolls for a year and a half then suddenly sticks me for the entire amount payable five days after it gets to my house. We're working, tax-paying folks w/ a baby on the way, who the !@#$% has that kind of money to fill NTTA's coffers in five days??? I would have been happy to pay when I drove through (say, at a toll booth?) or gotten an invoice right away that mentioned the toll tag for reduced rate but now I learn the hard way at my great expense and their soaring profit.

    I've also learned I'm not the only who's noticed the very nicely equipped Chevy 3500 four-door dually pickups carrying only one worker at a time who hops out w/ a leaf blower to clear leaves and dust off the guard rails (seriously???) and there is very nice landscaping all along the toll roads–do we really need this??? They don't appear to be hurting for money that badly if a single guy w/ a leaf blower can drive a very nice four-door 1-ton dually pickup and they can artistically decorate their roads.

    This is grossly unfair and the public MUST have some sort of recourse against this blatant abuse. I would be happy to pay my tolls along the way but for them to sit and wait for a year and a half before sending a pile of invoices for hundreds of dollars all at once to be paid in full in less than a week is outrageous. The public must have a way to fight back–or never have a need to in the first place.

  4. Rick, send me your entire story with license plate, phone, address and full name to my work email watchdog@star-telegram.com and I will look at it and pass it on to NTTA for you. Dave Lieber.

  5. Dave,

    I purchased a car for my adult daughter who moved soon after to another location where there are tolls. Here in my community, we have no tollways, yet. I live 640 miles away from where my daughter resides and I was sent these toll citations…didn't know what the heck they were. I called my daughter, she told me to send, I did and apparently nothing was done. Long story very short, I repossessed the vehicle, had to file for bankruptcy since I couldn't afford the car payments and as of 2 years ago, my toll charges were over 24K!

    Thus far, I haven't heard from them, and my bankruptcy didn't cover these ridiculous charges…was even harassed by some guy up in NJ who was one of their collectors. Is there a statue of limitations? I can't believe they're are holding me responsible even though I never was behind the wheel of the car and living 640 miles away.

  6. Cecilia, Your daughter should have dealt with this when the payments were very small, but they escalated. I hope she learns that you just can't throw bills in the trash and hope they go away. This will be an outstanding debt on your credit record and will lower your credit score. And if a warrant eventually will be issued for your arrest. For sure in the DFW region, but also possibly, if you get stopped by police where you live, they will check and see and the system may pop out that you owe this, and it's likely that you would find yourself in jail. My first suggestion is that you contact the North Texas Tollway Authority and negotiate with them about how much they can lower your bill. My second suggestion is that after doing that, you send me an email to watchdog@star-telegram.com and give me an update on the situation, along with your name, address, license plate of that car, so they can look you up. I will pass on to them to see what they can do. Third, you may have to consult a lawyer. Sadly, this is your daughter's fault. Perhaps, in the end, she can pay the bill and clear your name. You also should probably not buy things for her in your name since she has shown her lack of responsibility.

  7. This is what I'm currently looking at by way of NTTA fee assessment, which from what I'm reading out there online, it is absolutely legal for them to charge this. They want me to pay over 10 times the actual toll charges in fees alone, plus the actual toll charges themselves on top of that bringing my total to over $5K.

    I am currently a NTTA toll tag account holder, and the charges are from 2009 and 2010 before I became a toll tag account holder. I never received a bill until I became a toll tag customer, and now owe them my first born, my right arm, and apparently my soul.

    They will not settle for less than what is owed, which from everything I've read online, is typical NTTA practices.

    So will this ever be settled in my lifetime? I just don't know.

    Total Toll Due: $433.16
    Total Admin Fees Due: $4,650.00
    Total Invoice Amount Due: $5,083.16

  8. After purchasing a new car, it took a fee months to get our toll tag. We were billed over a period of 8 months for charges. Many of these bills were never received until suddenly we would receive past due invoices. We called and paid numerous times only to later receive a bill for over $2100 from an attorney/collection agency representing NTTA. We had called and paid them five different times over 6 months. Each time we would ask "So we are TOTALLY current? We don't have ANY outstanding invoices?" Each time we were told our account was current. After many frustrating calls and lengthy discussions with "supervisors," I was finally told that the agents must not have clicked on the OTHER screen which shows past due balances. So, each time we were calling, they were only collecting our current charges, never the past due amounts. The past due amount was $380 which had now become $2100. The "supervisor" informed me nothing could be done at this point. We don't know what to do. Clearly, we were calling often to keep our account current but numerous agents didn't quote us the correct balance. And no one at NTTA can help?!

  9. David L. Steveson says:

    We live out of state and visit the Dallas area often, since our granddaughters live
    there. We have never seen anywhere on the tollways rules pertaining to non-resident passage. We have now received bills from NTTA totally $250.00 from as
    far back as July of 2010. Had we of known our responsibility to get a toll tag for
    passage we would have. I feel that a notice of our responsibility should have been
    sent sooner and that these tolls should be recalculated at toll tag prices . Please advise just how we can be treated fairly in this. We have mailed $130.00 already
    and are in process of applying for a toll tag.

  10. Justin B. Galloway says:

    Would this law apply to Harris County Toll Road Authority as well? I just went to the kangaroo courts "Administrative Hearing" today and they are charging me $200 in fees for only $6 in tolls that I later did pay. I never got the the original notices and when I finally did get one, I paid the $6 bucks. I am a TxTag Customer and my account went below the amount allowed at the time of the $6 in question. I refuse to use the HCTRA system due to lack of distrust and I see that my suspicions were correct.

    So anyway I went to this "hearing" but was only met by a representative from the Law Firm that represents the HCTRA "Linebarger, Groggan, Blair & Sampson" it also identifies it self as a collection agency. She told me I had no alternatives but to make a payment plan with her or see their "judge" later that night ( it was already 5PM ).

    I said I did not want to see a judge without proper counsel. She told me I had no choice in the matter and I was not allowed an attorney for this. I reiterated that again I want to seek counsel or have this reset and she told me my only option then is to leave or pay a $200 bond. So I left. As I walked out the door she said she was tacking on an additional $500 fee. I just came home from this and began to research on my own and came upon this article.

  11. Travis B. says:

    My girlfriend has had a nightmare trying to deal with NTTA. Everytime she would receive notices, WHEN she would receive them, she would call and pay over the phone; every time she did this she would always ask "Is this all that I owe" always to be answered with "Yes, you are current on your bill." She never thought anything of it until she got a ticket in the mail that stated that she had to appear in court to answer for her fees. (Usually just 2 or so tolls that would edual to a couple hundred dollars after court fees and admin fees were assessed.) she looked online and to her overwhelming dismay discovered that she owed the NTTA 15,000$ When she tried to call they refused to help her out. She made good faith efforts to pay these fines the best she could but they always refused to take off the fees or to take a payment plan. They told her that she could talk to a representative at the court house and try and work something out with them but the representative is only there one day out of the month. She purchased TWO tolltags in hopes that it would mitigate their fee's but to no avail. She's a 21 year old National-Guardsman, full time worker, and part time student. She neither has the money nor the time to deal with these crooks. She has since given up and has no idea how this never ending mountain of debt will ever be resolved. It infuriates me that these people can get away with such outrageous practices, yet I'm at a loss because there is nothing either of us can do.

  12. I am another 'never received the bill, getting charged thousands' complainer that doesn't know what to do!! I had a tolltag (that evidently wasn't registered properly), used it everyday to get from home to school while finishing my BA (using GWB from Lewisville to Richardson)….then moved to the UK for my masters degree and came back two years later to $12,000 in fines, 5 active warrants, and 4 bench warrants. I am just now applying for medical school – there is no way I can afford to pay this! But I have to have a clear record, this could seriously damage my chances of getting accepted. I just found out about all of this, no idea what to do. Every lawyer wants $250-$500 just to talk about it…ahhh!!!!!

  13. I moved here over two years ago. I was told a bill came to your mail with what you owed. With having out of state tags but and updated address, I never received a bill until almost two years later with an amount of almost $6,500 dollars. There is no way I can pay this. I am going to try and call and work something out, but this is crazy for driving on roads. I'm not excusing not paying, but I'm not sure how it can ever be paid. I know sometimes they will work out a payment, but making what I make, I live paycheck to paycheck with little to no extra money.(I haven't even had a hair cut in almost a year)