The Fixer: 407 ETR says it wants to play nice with customers

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The 407 toll road is trying to collect sooner on unpaid bills, but it may not be enough to change the perception its billing practices are predatory.

On Saturday we reported on tenacious Tammy Flores, who has fought the 407 for many years after it denied her a licence plate renewal over unpaid bills she says were run up by her ex-husband.

We accompanied Flores and a small group of people who have big problems with their bills to a meeting last week with a 407 vice-president Kevin Sack, which we wrote about Saturday.

Their situations remained unchanged after the meeting, but it provided Sack an opportunity to explain steps taken to make it less likely that compound interest of 26.82 per cent will be added to bills for years at a time.

When the interest charges are combined with its authority to deny a licence plate renewal to anyone who doesn’t pay, it would seem the 407 has good reasons to hold back bills, instead of aggressively pursuing them.

Until we reported on widespread problems with 407 bills in 2009, it stopped mailing invoices after three months when a bill wasn’t paid, and wouldn’t send another for years, while the compound interest added up to outrageous amounts.

After our stories, the 407 began in 2010 to send an invoice at least once a year to the last address it can find for customers with unpaid bills, said Sack, to remind people that the interest clock never stops ticking.

“The (407) is not in the business of plate denial and interest,” Sack, who is the 407’s VP of communication and government relations, told the meeting. “We’re in the business of allowing people to use the road.”

He insisted that “bill suppression,” which is how it describes the practice of not mailing a regular invoice, was not devised as a sneaky way for the 407 to make more money.

“We want to collect tolls, not interest,” said Sack. “We want people to use the highway.”

More than 90 per cent of customers pay their bills on time, he said, adding that “at the end of the day, a plate owner is responsible for all the charges” billed to it, no matter what the excuse is for not paying promptly.

If people with billing problems provide the 407 with good reasons, customer service agents are authorized to be accommodating and flexible, he said, which may include reducing or even eliminating interest charges.

While the friendlier approach and annual invoice sent to customers in arrears is an improvement from its earlier practices, it seems to us it would be better for everyone if the 407 tried harder to collect sooner.

It has access to the transportation ministry’s database for the addresses registered for all plates, so why not use it to keep sending a bill every month, instead of saying it is too costly and troublesome?

We agree that people should pay on time and not make the 407 chase them. But if the toll road wants to avoid the perception it deliberately allows the interest to add up, it would be better to keep billing unpaid accounts monthly and deny a plate sooner, before the interest reaches a level that people cannot pay.–the-fixer-407-etr-says-it-wants-to-play-nice-with-customers

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2 Responses to “The Fixer: 407 ETR says it wants to play nice with customers”

  1. Tony says:

    Hi I have called ETR to try and settle my 2.000 dollar bill, they said they would call me back in three days well its been 2 weeks and no call, I tried negotiating to only pay the usage amount and wave the intrest and they totally refused.
    I am a cancer patient and put it to them that when i used the ETR i was fine but I still need my car and need to go for treatment and cant get my sticker for my plate reniew till I pay the 2.000 dollars.
    There was no compasion no reselution.
    They are so cold so now what can I do my birthday is in February and I dont have money to rteniew my sticker.
    Any ideas, please help me.
    Thanks in advance.

  2. Scott says:

    I’m a little late on this, but I wonder how Mr. Sack would feel if his credit card company stopped sending a statement and simply allowed interest to capitalize, or how he’d feel if the government allowed Leons or The Brick to not notify him of the upcoming date for his “don’t pay a cent” purchase?

    What I find interesting is that the government is all over credit card issuers – creating bills in parliment to outline legal and illegal practices, creating a cardholder bill of rights – and our provincial government is too afraid of 407 to legislate some of the same…

    I’ve not been a victim of any hardship caused by 407, however I still find their practices abhorrent.

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