MTO’s Role in the 407 ETR’s Billing Nightmare


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This article can be found on page 15 of the Toronto Caribbean newspaper you can download here http://caribflyer.com/tc-editions/Toronto-Caribbean-April25-Web.pdf

 

Many of you who have been reading my submissions already know that the group “Stop the 407 ETR’s Abuse of Power” has had a busy 2012 so far.  Communications with the Ministry of Transportation continue to been ongoing.  One major bone of contention we have found when trying to hold the Ministry of Transportation accountable for their role in the 407 ETR’s billing nightmare is their deferral of the issue to simply a billing matter between the 407 ETR, a private corporation, and the public.  But is it a simple billing matter between the public and a private corporation? The short answer to that is no because the Ministry of Transportation is interfering with the public’s ability to negotiate a fair settlement with the 407 ETR by enforcing the “Plate Denial” process.  The Ministry of Transportation is honoring the 407 ETR’s request to place people in “Plate Denial”, without proof that lawful charges exist and as a result, the 407 ETR is exploiting this bureaucratic glitch and is raping and pillaging the pockets of people for thousands and thousands in unlawful charges.  The Ministry of Transportation has not offered any satisfactory solutions to this problem.

 

To illustrate how we have not received any satisfactory solutions, we received an e-mail dated March 28th, 2012.  Chris Conroy, the Ministry of Transportation’s Research Analyst, continues to try and paint the picture as if we are asking the Ministry of Transportation to intervene in a billing issue and says, “the Ministry is not an arbiter of billing matters, but is a monitor of 407 ETR’s compliance with the Highway 407 Act, 1998 (the “Act”), its regulations and the concession agreements.”  He then goes on to say, “From the information YOU provided, 407 ETR appears to have complied with all of the legislated requirements in your case.”

 

Herein lies the issue that the Ministry of Transportation is refusing to acknowledge and so therefore, in my opinion, is liable for the problem that exists with this private company.  The Ministry of Transportation has no documentation from the 407 ETR that proves lawful charges exists.  They want YOU to provide them with proof to defend against the 407 ETR’s claim.  I thought we lived in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty.  When it comes to the 407 ETR you are guilty until you can hound them for years, send books full of communications to them requesting proof of lawful charges and letters to the Privacy Commissioner to compel the 407 ETR to provide the proof that lawful charges exists and still not receive the proof they are supposed to provide, but somehow, you are still guilty when there is no proof that lawful charges exists.  Does that make sense to you?  It doesn’t to us and we will not rest until this issue is fixed!

 

In past communications when we asked what documentation the Ministry of Transportation had from the 407 ETR that provides proof that lawful charges exists against someone, their answer was that they receive “a statement from the Chief Financial Officer at 407 ETR certifying that the 407 ETR has complied with the requirements of the Act in the issuance of notices”.  We have come to realize that that statement the Ministry of Transportation receives is not worth the paper it’s written on.

 

With the ability to deny a person from legally licensing a vehicle you would think there would be a fair standard in place, a regulation, to ensure that the 407 ETR is billing consumers correctly and providing proof of lawful charges and the methods of collection, with time limits that are fair, reasonable and easy for the public to understand prior to placing someone in “Plate Denial”.  When we asked the Ministry of Transportation about this the answer we received was that “the Act and associated regulations task the toll operator with maintaining the safe and efficient operation of the highway. The Act provides for specific steps and responsibilities for the 407 ETR, including the delivery of various invoices and notices to be sent to customers where tolls are unpaid. It also provides a mechanism for customers to dispute charges with 407 ETR.”  So we decided to push further on these specific steps and responsibilities as neither the 407 ETR nor the Ministry of Transportation seems to want to outline it to make it easy for the public to understand.

 

We questioned the Ministry of Transportation about the timing around the specific steps and responsibilities the 407 ETR has to deliver invoices and notices.  On February 16th, 2012, their answer was “the wording of the Act refers to interest accruing after the invoice of a toll or fee is ‘mailed, delivered by hand or sent by any other prescribed method’. The Act and the regulations go on to define a period of time in which a letter or notice is ‘deemed’ to have been received by the customer. Therefore the company need only send an invoice to be able to apply interest 35 days later under Section 15(2).”  Our interpretation of that answer is that the Ministry of Transportation doesn’t seem to think there is anything wrong with the fact that people aren’t receiving invoices from the 407 ETR for up to 5 years and more, for thousands of dollars, with just a number on a bill and no documentation or proof behind what makes up the charges the company is claiming.

 

Ironically, on March 28th, 2012, Chris Conroy, MTO’s Research Analyst, said to me in an email “This office is responsible for listening to issues raised by customers, checking any details regarding that person’s registration records, and offering information relevant to their situation. We will also provide information or request documents from 407 ETR on the customer’s behalf, with their consent.”  My response to that is really?

 

On January 18th, 2012, Lou Politano, Regional Director with the Ministry of Transportation responded to my email requesting all documentation behind the investigation MTO was supposed to have conducted on my case for at least 16 months.  He writes “In your e-mail, you … indicated you are dissatisfied with the information you received from the Ministry through the Freedom of Information process. The information you were provided was the information we have in our files. Telephone logs or minutes of discussions between the Ministry and 407ETR are not prepared for these types of discussions as they are considered routine business.” I can confirm that the Ministry of Transportation did not provide me with anything from the 407 ETR despite the fact that I have given them permission twice to receive documents from the 407 ETR on my behalf.

 

Let’s ask the question again.  Is this problem the public has with the 407 ETR simply a billing matter between the public and a private corporation?  Since the Ministry of Transportation is honoring the 407 ETR’s request to deny a person’s plate, it is their responsibility to make sure that they are doing their due diligence and that there are lawful charges against someone prior to placing them in “Plate Denial”.  An acceptable standard has to be in place that outlines to the public, in a transparent way, what steps and responsibilities the 407 ETR must take to make sure invoices and notices are sent to people in a fair and timely manner with proof of what lawful charges the 407 ETR is claiming against people.

 

We want to know the social/economic impact driving on this highway has had on you.  Please write to Stop the 407 ETR’s Abuse of Power, 75 Bayly Street, PO Box 14524, Ajax, Ontario, L1S 7K7 or email us at 407AbuseofPower@hotmail.ca  You can also find us at www.407etr-abuseofpower.com  If you would like to keep up to date with what’s happening on a daily basis, please join our Facebook group “Stop the 407 ETR’s Abuse of Power” or you can follow us on Twitter @407AbuseofPower.

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2 Responses to “MTO’s Role in the 407 ETR’s Billing Nightmare”

  1. Dawn W. says:

    I am concerned by the number of complaints surrounding 407 ETR billing practices because of the large number of individuals being denied plate renewal for outstanding accounts that go back over 8-10 years. By accounting practices would this already be written off as a bad debt by the company and wouldn’t they have received some sort of government compensation when it came to company tax credits?

  2. christina Little Tenflehe says:

    I recieved a account summary in the mail today for my husband of $38.41 with .75 intrest. Strange to be recieving a statement as my husband has been deceased since June 8, 2007. His estate was taken care of 6 months later. Sorry you did not recieve a letter from estate attorney in 2007. But i’m sure he did not have a bill at that time. If he did payment would have been paid.Sorry to say but bill will not be paid in full. Thankyou. Please check your records more accuratly. Sincerly Christina Little Tenflehe

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