Toll road drivers getting fed up with erroneous charges

HOUSTON – Kimberly Colwell, of Spring, received a big surprise Tuesday in the form of a letter from TxTag.

She was informed of nine toll tag violations she allegedly racked up in May.

It's the third time, she says, she's received erroneous violation notices from TxTag. Each one she's received has caused the single mother and small-business owner a major inconvenience.

"It's a pain. It takes up your time. You have to set aside time from work," Colwell said. "When I come home, I'm dealing with her, but they're not available because it's after hours."

Colwell isn't the only driver who's received the violation notices.

Channel 2 has gotten email and phone complaints from numerous drivers, most whom drive along the Grand Parkway on the north side of the Houston area.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority, which administers the EZ TAGs used by TxTag, is aware of the issue and told Channel 2, "We are looking into the matter to further understand what, if any, issues may exist with the transfer of account information between the various agencies."

Colwell hopes that process clears things up once and for all.

"My time is valuable too," Colwell said. "I did the right thing as a consumer. I purchased an EZ TAG. I make sure it's replenished. But now I'm having to pay the consequences by calling and trying to get fees waved because otherwise I'd have to pay the fees and the toll."

The drivers who contacted Channel 2 say they were told by the Harris County Toll Road Authority that the problem was due either to an equipment failure or a system upgrade.

On their website, Tx Tag instructs customers to dispute charges by calling the agency that issued their tag.

"It's very frustrating because I dialed the number they said on here last night, which is North Texas and of course, it rang busy and busy and busy. And then I called Harris County and it was a little after 5 o'clock and the lady came on and she couldn't help me because their computers were down. When I just went in there, their computers were down and we had to wait for them to come back up," said John LaRocca, who came by the EZ Tag Store in West Houston to resolve his toll issue.

"I went in, there was a long line, I thought I was going to get my information taken care of and conveniently, the system is down," said Peter Cooper, who also came to the West Houston EZ Tag Store location.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority said that customers can also email them with account numbers and invoice numbers to dispute those toll charges.

Customers with toll violation disputes can email HCTRA at txtagdisputes@hctra.org.

Customers must provide their name, account number, phone number and license plate number.

TxTag posted the following statement on its website about the problems and what drivers need to do: 

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience our toll customers are experiencing at this time. EZTag, TxTag and TollTag (Houston, Austin and Dallas toll authorities) have been working together to allow their toll tags to work seamlessly with Kansas and other states so that Texas toll tag users can drive on other states’ toll roads using their same tags. During this time, the transfer of account information between the partnering toll authorities was delayed and, as a result, some customers were issued a Pay By Mail invoice and violations in error. Due to this issue, we are receiving a high volume of calls and customers are experiencing long wait times.

"Please call the agency with which you established your TxTag, TollTag or EZTag account to dispute Pay By Mail invoices or violations you might have received in error from other toll agencies. Your home tag agency will file a dispute on your behalf to resolve these bill issues with the other agencies. There is no need for you to call both toll agencies. We appreciate your patience as we work with our partner tolling agencies to resolve the situation."

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