Court awards $50,000 in 407 ETR billing dispute

A Markham car dealer has been awarded $50,000 in punitive damages by the courts after a four-year billing dispute with 407 ETR Concession Ltd.

Daniel Min uses a 407 ETR transponder to drive vehicles to auction. But the company that operates the toll highway billed Min as if he didn’t have the electronic device.

Min argued that the transponders do not work through the windshields of Mercedes Benz vehicles. That resulted in extra bills and interest charges of $28,000.

The car dealer refused to pay the higher rate and 407 ETR Concession Ltd. brought the dispute to small claims court and the Ontario Superior Court at the same time. The company did not accept Min’s explanation that the billing problem was their fault.

“Our bill should be only about one, two, three dollars for a short trip,” Min told CTV’s Janice Golding on Tuesday. “But we’re getting seven, eight dollars on every bill.”

In small claims court 407 ETR sought about $10,000 and about $18,000 in superior court. Min counter-sued in small claims court for $25,000 and for $1 million in superior court, according to documents supplied to the Toronto Star by his lawyer.

“They’re very pushy,” Min told The Star. He added that he tried to settle the small claims court suit with an offer of $8,000 “to get it over with.” 407 ETR refused.

Min’s lawyer Paul Copeland said the company did not respond to the counterclaim or warnings that his client was going to seek a court order for punitive damages.

On Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Romain Pitt issued a decision awarding $50,000 to Min.

“(407) has the monopoly on the use of a highway and … has substantial resources. With the monopoly power that it possesses and with its ability to determine who may drive on the highways, the (407) has a clear duty to exercise its enormous power responsibly. The award for punitive damages should be in such an amount as would reinforce the danger of failing to act responsibly,” Pitt’s decision read.

Copeland told The Star that no representatives from 407 ETR or their legal counsel were in court when the decision was handed down.

407 ETR says they rely on an external law firm to handle collections and they are trying to find out why no one was in court for the decision. The company said it is reviewing legal options.

With a report from CTV’s Janice Golding News Staff
Date: Tuesday Nov. 7, 2006 12:22 PM ET

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