Florida promises to reimburse motorists after toll troubles
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) —
After a major malfunction of the state’s main toll road billing system, Florida said it would begin reimbursing motorists who were charged bank fees as a result of all the problems.
Motorists across the state have been confounded this summer by problems with SunPass, which allows motorists to be charged electronically for using toll roads. Millions of toll transactions got delayed as a result of a billing system upgrade. When the transactions finally began to show up, some customers incurred bank overdraft fees as a result.
Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Dew said Thursday that the state planned to bill Conduent State and Local Solutions, the company that managed the upgrade, for the bank fees.
“Today, SunPass deployed an overdraft claims process to make our customers whole,” Dew said in a statement. “We will not let Conduent off the hook and the bill for reimbursements will be sent directly to Conduent. SunPass customer service representatives are trained and ready to receive calls from customers who may have been impacted.”
Despite reported problems in other states, Florida hired Conduent in 2015 to handle its toll system transactions. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the initial contract was worth $287 million but has changed so it is now worth $343 million.
Gov. Rick Scott has come under fire for the problems, especially after it was reported he attended a fundraiser in Texas this year where one of the hosts was a major shareholder of the company. Dew announced earlier this week that at Scott’s direction the state would fine Conduent nearly $800,000 for damages as a result of the problems with the billing system. Scott’s chief inspector general is also launching an investigation.
The Florida Transportation Commission, which is supposed to act as a watchdog of the state’s transportation department, is demanding answers as well. During a conference call on Thursday, commission member Ken Wright said he wanted to know why Conduent was ever hired.
“It absolutely boggles my mind,” said Wright, who was appointed by Scott. “Somebody ought to step forward to explain how that went down.”
Commissioners agreed that DOT officials need to give a presentation on the problems with the tolling system and why Conduent was selected over vendors competing for the contract.
DOT officials said that motorists seeking reimbursements must show bank records that show that their SunPass account was automatically charged and the resulting overdraft fees. The fees must have been taken out between June 11 and Aug. 17.