The Fixer: 407 ETR’s toughest customer never stops fighting contested bills

Tammy Flores, who’s been battling the 407 ETR for many years over bills she says she doesn’t owe, leaves the 407 offices on Steeles Ave. W. with her extensive files after a meeting on Thursday.

Change the 407Act!  Please sign & share the petition

There is no quit in Tammy Flores, when it comes to battling the 407 ETR over charges she says she does not owe.

While most people who dispute a 407 bill give up in despair — defeated by its power to deny them a license plate for non-payment — Flores continues a daily fight over a plate denial imposed more than five years ago.

She peppers 407 officials with emails that parse the legislation under which it operates. She hounds the province over plate denial, an iron-clad privilege unique to the 407. She lobbies politicians to curb those powers.

She is relentless, and undoubtedly the 407’s squeakiest wheel.

But Flores has made little headway in her fight against charges dating back 10 years that she says were rung up by her ex-husband and then added to her 407 bill.

Not much was accomplished at a meeting she and four others with billing disputes had Thursday with 407 vice-president Kevin Sack, which we attended, other than giving her an opportunity to vent.

“I’m not giving up,” said Flores. “They got it wrong. But it’s hard to prove when they just keep saying you owe the money.”

The 407 decides who owes what, and uses plate denial as its hammer. And when the clock is ticking on compound interest of 26.82 per cent, the totals can be staggering.

When we first reported on the 407’s billing practices in 2009, we had no idea we’d touched such a raw nerve. Hundreds of readers contacted us with billing beefs, by far the largest response to any topic in seven years of fixing things.

We were deluged with examples of charges for trips not taken, license plate mixups, bills sent to drivers who’d never been on the 407 and plate denials that grounded seniors and kept people from driving to work.

But the most common theme was a bill that arrived out of the blue, usually several years or more after the driving took place, demanding an outrageous sum — thousands of dollars, in some cases — comprised mainly of interest.

The 407 uses “bill suppression,” which means they stop sending a monthly invoice after three months and let the interest add up before sending another bill several years down the road, or even longer.

It feeds a suspicion that the 407 deliberately holds back bills, rather than pursuing them monthly, which Sack denied in the meeting, adding that bill suppression was altered in 2010, after our stories. (More on that Monday).

Flores and several others in the group arrived at the 407 offices on Steeles Ave. W. carrying thick stacks of files they’ve accumulated, hoping to use them to make their case.

Please look at them, the proof is here, they asked, hoping to go through their files with someone — anyone — at the 407 who’d listen.

But Sack, who manages communications and government relations for the 407, said he didn’t have any information about their specific cases and has no authority to change decisions already made.

Sack said he couldn’t even discuss details of anyone’s case due to privacy regulations, unless they all signed a waiver, allowing him to talk about their individual situations in a group setting that included media.

He asked several times but they all refused, with Flores maintaining it would allow Sack to “control the agenda.”

Sack told them the 407’s dispute resolution process is more flexible now, and that its customer service staff will sometimes reduce or even eliminate interest charges, depending on the situation.

Great, they said. Let’s do it. But then the bad news: If they have already gone through the dispute resolution process and the 407 ombudsman, a final decision has been made, said Sack.

But some of the charges are not lawful, said Flores. The 407 is abusing its authority to deny plates. Look, I can show you, she implored.

I can’t talk about it or do anything, said Sack.

And on it went for nearly an hour before the meeting broke up, with Flores promising to engage municipal politicians, whom she intends to pressure into taking up the fight.

Good luck.

MONDAY: The 407 says it is trying hard to resolve unpaid bills before the interest is sky-high.

Incoming search terms:

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: BlueHost Coupon | Compare CD Rates, Online Brokers and Press Release