Don’t like 407 billing? Stay off the highway, owner says


The Conservative government sold the 407 toll road to a private firm for $3.1 billion in 1999. (Nov. 30, 2009)

The 407 toll road has some advice for people who don’t like its billing practices or the way it applies provincial laws meant to protect consumers: Don’t drive on our highway.

Our column Monday explained how the 407 says anyone who accepts an invoice from it and subsequently drives on the road has entered into an “agreement” to allow it to pursue the driver for the amount, plus annual interest of 26.82 per cent, for up to 15 years.

The 407 says this alleged agreement is allowed under Section 22 of the Ontario Limitations Act, which says companies must start legal action to collect an unpaid debt within two years of issuing the bill, but the time period can be extended by agreement between both parties.

We believe an agreement is a conscious and deliberate decision made by both parties, and so do some prominent lawyers who are familiar with the act. We don’t believe sending someone a bill that says they’ve agreed to allow themselves to be pursued for up to 15 years for an unpaid balance constitutes a legitimate agreement. Neither do the lawyers we’ve talked to.

We called Steve Spencer, who deals with media for the 407, to ask what legal authority it relies on to assume it need only send a bill to someone who later drives on the toll road to conclude it has a legal agreement to pursue them for 15 years for an unpaid balance.

The conversation was like one from the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

“I’m not following (your question) exactly,” said Spencer, when we asked about the legal underpinnings of its billing approach.

“So there’s the Limitations Act, obviously, and there’s an area of the Limitations Act which allows you to, um, you need to obviously, you know, when we send a bill that language is on every single bill.”


“Clearly, if somebody uses the highway as a video driver only, we don’t have an option to sit down and talk with that person, obviously, they’re just travelling on our highway. That’s why it’s on every bill, that’s why it’s there, it’s in bold.”

Bull, we said. You have no authority to make such assumptions. How can you say drivers have agreed to this?

“Say you got the bill and you didn’t agree to that,” said Spencer. “So you pay your bill, so if you didn’t agree to that, there would be a perfectly simple choice.”

So are you saying drivers shouldn’t use the road, if they didn’t agree to all terms printed on their bill, we asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” replied Spencer. “That’s where you’re going, right?”

Aren’t you telling people the Limitations Act doesn’t apply to the 407?

“Not at all,” he said. “In fact, this is completely covered under the Limitations Act.”

It made our head spin. We can imagine how frustrating it is for people fighting a bill that’s padded with huge interest charges.

Stay tuned, victims. We’ll sort this out, sooner or later.

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