CARR Title

E-TAG SWINDLE

NOTE: If you arrived at this page without seeing a menu, please click on this link - www.carr.org.au - to open the entire CARR website in a new window.

The author asserts his right to publish this information in the public interest
No responsibility is taken for consequences resulting from using any information contained herein

ANOTHER RIP-OFF BY GOVERNMENT

It seems that state governments have discovered another way of ripping off hapless motorists. By making toll roads cashless, governments are forcing motorists to obtain electronic tolling tags (E-tags), because the procedure for paying tolls via the Internet is both very inconvenient and attracts additional fees.

E-TAGS BREED COMPLACENCY

The problem with having an E-tag automatically paying the tolls is that the horrendous cost of tolls doesn't have an impact on motorists at the time, which leads to complacency. This is a good example of social engineering. If motorists had to pull over at toll booths every time and dip into their pockets to pay more than $22 cash for a trip to the airport and back, they would quickly reassess the situation and probably make an effort to avoid toll roads after the first time they were stung by such iniquitous charges.

But the government and toll road operators know that people do not realise how they are being ripped off when being tolled automatically and this is the prime reason why the government is pushing for all toll roads to be cashless. Not only is it far cheaper for them to rip money from motorists if they don't need people to manually collect tolls, but people become unaware of the rapidly mounting bills they incur with electronic tolling.

By all means, get an E-tag if you need one, but make sure you get the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) E-Toll tag, because it is free and does not incur charges like some of the others that are issued by the toll road operators. However, always realise that every time it beeps as you enter and exit a toll road, IT IS COSTING YOU MONEY and the amount adds up very quickly.

One of the most sobering ways to realise what toll roads really cost is for motorists to add up the toll charges on their credit card statements over the period of a year. When they discover that all those tag beeps have cost them around $50 to $100 per week to save a few minutes, adding up to between $2500 and $5000 per year that could have easily been avoided, then it really makes good financial sense for motorists to completely shun toll roads.

THE FINANCIAL RAKE-OFF IS GIGANTIC

It has been estimated that motorists were conned of more than $100 million in needless up-front payments to tollway operators, as thousands rushed to obtain E-tags. E-tag providers, including the RMS, have taken $58 million in $40 security deposits, which are unlikely to ever be returned.

The security deposit is demanded in NSW, even though tag providers interstate, including Victoria's Breeze and Queensland's E-toll, do not require the same fee. At least another $50 million in minimum balances is held by the three E-tag providers, due to toll accounts requiring a minimum $20, with some requiring $50 before being topped up from credit cards.

This iniquitous situation arises because the NSW government knows well that literally the only time that an E-tag is returned for a deposit refund is only when the motorist relocates overseas or dies. On the E-way website it is stated that the $40 deposit is forfeited even when the tag is stolen.

MOTORISTS ARE FORCED INTO THIS SCHEME

In NSW, tens of thousands of motorists were forced to sign up for E-tags, when the Sydney Harbour Bridge's last tollbooth closed in January 2008. Motorists living in the greater Sydney metropolitan area, especially along the northern beaches, literally had no choice but to obtain E-tags.

Quite rightly, the NSW motoring association NRMA has demanded that E-tags be free. NRMA senior policy adviser Mark Wolstenhome said: "It is a significant amount of money being held by toll road operators. We've long said the tags should be free." But as usual, NSW politicians and their cronies have their noses in the trough yet again and rip off the taxpayer by being allocated free E-tags and are exempt from paying tolls.

UNJUSTIFIED FEES FOR E-TOLL MALFUNCTIONS

In 2013, the RMS put out this edict, “Travelling without a working tag may attract fees from 1 June 2013”. In other words, the RMS intended to slug motorists for malfunctions of equipment that did not belong to them and that could not be repaired by them. I wrote to the RMS and stated this no uncertain terms:

I received the following reply from the RMS:

There is a rip-off factor in this matter. The RMS has the ability to match number plates to toll accounts, therefore if the RMS can do this, then it would be no effort for its computerised system to charge a toll to the account of the vehicle with that particular number plate. Therefore there would be no need to charge a fee for the RMS's failed equipment. This no-tag fee is nothing more than a blatant scam.

The big problem with this is that motorists will be slugged with this preposterous and unfair fee and probably not notice it on their toll accounts. I advise all motorists to examine their toll accounts very thoroughly and if they find any unjustified charges on them, such as this equipment failure fee, they should immediately contact RMS and threaten legal action if the fee is not removed and an undertaking by the RMS is not made to never again charge such a fee.

And why the hell should motorists chase RMS for refunds because of unjustified and unfair fees? This all takes time and often some expense. Any motorist who is hit with an unjustified fee and is entitled to a refund should also send a bill to the RMS for the time and expense it took to obtain that refund. Never let them get away with wasting your time and costing you money.

Of course the best way to avoid this and other toll road problems is to do what I have always advocated and that is to never go on any toll road. There is always a good way to get to your destination without enriching toll road operators, so boycott them completely and save your money and never be liable for any of these ridiculous rip-off fees.

THE ELITE GET FREE TRAVEL ON TOLL ROADS

A news article revealed that an elite group of politicians and others receive free E-tags and free travel on toll roads, while the rest of us just keep forking out our hard-earned money to drive on these same roads. It's an utter disgrace that would make any NSW motorist sick to the stomach. Read on:

NSW ELITE GET E-TAGS TO USE TOLL ROADS FOR FREE - 02 September 2008

It's fast become one of the biggest imposts on families - the proliferation of toll roads adding hundreds of dollars to our monthly travel bills. But The Daily Telegraph has uncovered a secret gold mine of free E-tags within the Government and NSW bureaucracy, where MPs, judges and public servants use toll roads for free. While taxpayers receive no salary adjustment for toll road travel, they are footing a bill of $5175 a week for the E-tag costs of an elite group of motorists including judges, ministers, ex-premiers and transport executives.

As ordinary commuters stump up $85.50 a week to travel from the Hills District into the city for work, the RTA has rewarded 212 of its staff with company cars and E-tags, paid for by the taxpayer, as part of their salaries. Their toll bills have skyrocketed from $41,511 in the 2004/2005 financial year to an astronomical $111,827 in the financial year to May this year, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information.

Chief Justice Jim Spigelman, on a salary of $357,950, is exempt for life from paying Harbour Bridge and tunnel tolls. Former premier Bob Carr, now earning $1 million a year at Macquarie Bank, cost the taxpayer $2864 in tolls between July 2006 and May this year while former Liberal premier Nick Greiner, chairman of Cross City Tunnel builders Baulderstone Hornibrook, claimed $5001 in the same period.

Among government ministers, Reba Meagher and Joe Tripodi ran up bills in their ministerial cars second only to Premier Morris Iemma. The vehicles are registered in the ministers' names and available for their private and official use. Small Business and Ports Minister Mr Tripodi's E-tag bill for that time was $7143 and Health Minister Ms Meagher's bill was $6154, compared to Mr Iemma's E-tag bill of $15,038.

Like Chief Justice Spigelman, judges of the Supreme and District courts enjoy lifetime exemption from Harbour Bridge and tunnel tolls because of what a court spokeswoman said was "an established government convention dating back decades". They all have E-tags fitted in their cars and all but the Chief Justice pay back personal use. The Chief Justice ran up an E-tag bill of $1066 in the seven months between October 2007 and April.

Some judges, like Justice Robert Austin, have made a decision to repay the entire amount, which in his case was $447.80 between October last year and April 2008. "Although the toll exemption is an entitlement, some judges don't access it," a spokeswoman said.
STOP THIS SCAM

This situation needs to be addressed urgently. The government is forcing motorists to either obtain E-tags or completely avoid using toll roads. I advocate the latter, to avoid toll roads where possible, so theoretically, motorists who support the aims of CARR would have no need for E-tags whatsoever.

Unfortunately, even motorists who support the aims of CARR and make it their policy to avoid toll roads, occasionally are forced to use these highway robbers for a number of reasons. Now that virtually all toll roads are cashless, motorists really do need to possess E-tags, because motorists do not have the option of paying tolls in cash at the time of travel.

Therefore, E-tags should be completely free. Toll road operators are saving a fortune by not having to employ toll collectors, so the massive reduction in operating costs from having cashless toll collection should be more than enough for toll road operators to be able to provide E-tags for free.

DEMAND FREE E-TAGS

I encourage all motorists to put pressure on toll road operators by firstly trying to send them broke by boycotting all toll roads where possible and also demanding that because toll roads are now cashless, that E-tags should be provided automatically to every registered vehicle in major metropolitan areas and by request to any motorists living outside urban areas.

WHERE TO GET FREE-E-TAGS

If NSW motorists are not offered E-tags without the iniquitous $40 security deposit, they can obtain E-tags that will operate on every toll road in Australia completely free of charge from interstate sources. Here are some sources for free E-tags:

www.govia.com.au - Go-Via, Queensland
www.breeze.com.au - Breeze, Victoria

More links will be added when they are found.

MOTORISTS - Please email any information about free E-tags to CARR