State of Texas: TxTag troubles and the search for solutions

FILE - TxTag (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - TxTag (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — This year, more than 2.2 million Texas toll accounts had a bill sent to a collections agency. That agency added nearly $1 billion in fees to drivers’ accounts, according to information obtained by KXAN through an open records request.

Many drivers have complained after not being able to get answers about billing problems that led to those fees. Some customers have faced thousands of dollars in penalties for  late fees charged because the company sent bills to the wrong address, or even being charged for a vehicle they did not own.

Recognizing the burden excess fees have on thousands of Texans, Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, filed an amendment to cap administrative fines for nonpayment of tolls at $6 per transaction and $48 a year. The amendment, which was adopted earlier this year as part of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Sunset Bill, will go into effect March 1, 2018.

But, the measure, also referred to as Senate Bill 312, isn’t expected to affect existing accounts and it’s still unclear if the cap on administrative fines will also limit collections fees. There’s also confusion about which toll roads it applies to.

“Several lawmakers have told me they don’t really know if its TxDOT roads or other roads,” said KXAN investigative reporter Brittany Glas. “That’s a huge problem. How do we not know what an amendment means before it’s set to go into place?”

Customer service has been handled by three different companies in just a matter of a couple of years. First, it was 3M, then Xerox for a few years, now it’s handled by another company, Conduent. Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, has been critical of the number of entities involved in the TxTag system. He wants to move everything under one entity.

“Any time you have switches between companies, you’re going to have this transition period where there’s going to be problems,” said Aman Batheja, a reporter with The Texas Tribune. “Every time a contract is up, Texas is going to go out and ask for the lowest bid — so it’s really hard for a company to hold onto these contracts long term.”

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