The Fixer: Seven years after he died, driver gets Hwy. 407 bill


Michelina Leva holds the vanity plates removed from her husband's vehicle after he died in 2003. Highway 407 sent a bill for a June 16 trip allegedly made using the plates. The plates have been in Leva's garden shed since her husband, Carlino, died.

 

There’s something about the 407 toll road that seems to make dead people rise from their graves and go for a drive.

Carlino Leva died in 2003, but his widow got an invoice Monday at her North York home for $7.14 from 407ETR, for driving he is supposed to have done on June 16.

“I was upset,” said Michelina Leva. “It made me cry.”

The trip was billed to a vanity plate that was on Carlino’s Dodge Caravan before he passed away, has since been in her garden shed and only added to Michelina’s distress.

“I can guarantee you it wasn’t him,” said Leva’s grandson, Sergio Zeppieri, adding he contacted the Star before he called the 407 because he’s dealt with the toll road before over disputed charges.

“There was no negotiating with them at all,” said Zeppieri.

We opened a can of worms last fall when we reported on the 407’s questionable billing practices, which includes holding back bills for years, then tacking on compound interest of 26 per cent annually.

Upwards of 800 complaints poured in from readers, many of whom received invoices out of the blue for driving allegedly done years before, padded with astounding interest charges.

The 407 said the bills were legitimate, suggested almost all the complainers were deadbeats, and stopped returning our calls and emails.

And there’s no escape from the charges. Under the deal the 407 made with Queen’s Park to lease the road for 99 years, it can compel the province to deny a licence plate renewal to anyone who doesn’t pay.

Even Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said the province is powerless to rein in the 407, due to ironclad provisions put in the contract by the former Progressive Conservative government.

Several readers said they received bills for driving done by deceased loved ones, including Diane Tobin of Port Perry, whose husband also passed away years before the arrival of a 407 invoice that said he’d recently driven on the highway.

The bill Michelina received said a vehicle with the vanity plate registered to Carlino was on the 407 at 5:35 pm. June 16. For some reason, the 407 was unable to determine the entry or exit points, which is why the bill was for only a minimal charge.

STATUS: Kevin Sack, a senior spokesperson for the City of Toronto until he started work for the 407 two weeks ago, was quick to solve the problem. It was no surprise to us; Sack has a reputation as a skilled communicator. Within an hour of our call, he called back to say an error was made in reading a vanity plate nearly identical to Leva’s, which prompted the bill. “We want to apologize to Mrs. Leva for the mistake, and we are sincerely sorry if it caused her distress,” he said. The invoice will be cancelled right away, said Sack, adding that a 407 customer service agent would be calling Leva to tell her the good news, and to apologize. We’re hoping it is the first step in a more customer-friendly approach by the 407.

Article Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/fixer/article/842504–the-fixer-seven-years-after-he-died-driver-gets-hwy-407-bill

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