HOUSTON – Brandon Robichaux is a busy man. He's a Navy veteran, a new father of a 3-month-old son, and a full-time student at the University of Houston.
He spends a lot of time on the road, commuting to college from Katy, often using the toll lanes on the Katy freeway to save time.
But last month the Harris County Toll Road authority notified him he had racked up 14 toll violations and owed hundreds of dollars in fines on about $39 in unpaid tolls.
“They're asking for money, saying I have to pay this stuff. I haven't done anything,” Robichaux said.
Robichaux says he was being charged for a mistake METRO made.
In January, he changed his home address and went online to update his Metro Toll tag account.
But somehow his new address wasn't saved in the METRO computer, so for a couple of weeks, METRO didn't bill his credit card, while Robichaux continued using the toll lanes, unaware the tolls weren't being paid.
When he discovered the mistake, he says METRO assured him they would take care of it.
“About a week later they got back in touch with me saying everything was clear, all you have to do is 'call EZ tag and pay unpaid toll.'” he said.
The toll lanes belong to the HCTRA, but when Robichaux contacted the toll authority he says he was told he still owed the fines at a reduced rate, which came out to a little over $340.
“Financially I don't have that. I can pay the unpaid tolls. But being a father, a newbie father and college money, it's super tight,” Robichaux said.
Robichaux spent weeks wrangling with the two agencies trying to resolve the problem, but says he was recently told if he doesn't pay soon, his case will go to a collection agency, increasing the cost to him to about $1,200 for $39 in unpaid tolls.
“I don't feel like I'm responsible for any of these fines anyway. I believe I didn't do anything wrong," he said.
A METRO spokesperson told KPRC Tuesday that METRO asked the HCTRA to waive the fines levied against Robichaux.
As of Tuesday at 5:45 p.m., the fines were lifted.
Laura Whitley, METRO Media Specialist, issued this statement:
"After extensive review, we have determined the funds in Mr. Robichaux's account were depleted on approximately February 16, 2016. Due to complexity in the software, his account did not rebill automatically and the customer unknowingly generated several violations.
We have worked closely with our partner agency and appreciate the Harris County Toll Road Authority's willingness to waive all fees that were imposed on Mr. Robichaux's account.
A HCTRA customer service representative has contacted him and collected only the actual $39.10 due in tolls.
Additionally, this situation provides an opportunity for us to improve our software and further enhance our customer experience. We appreciate Mr. Robichaux's patience and apologize for any frustration this situation may have caused him."