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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I-495 Express Lanes "Administration Fee" Scam

IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE MANY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING HOUNDED BY TRANSURBAN FOR HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, OR IF THEY'VE ALREADY GOTTEN A JUDGMENT AGAINST YOU -- or if you are just mad because they are asking you to pay a $12.50 administration fee for an obvious mistaken entry --  please read through the comments below, and email Lisa Marie Comras (lmsdigiulio@gmail.com), who is organizing a class action against Transurban.  Her attorneys will contact you and then you'll be able to decide for yourself whether you want to be part of the move to hold Transurban accountable.
According to Emily Miller of Fox 5 DC, Transurban filed 26,000 lawsuits against drivers in 2014 alone.  Maybe you're one of those drivers.  If you're facing an immediate court date, you might find some good ideas here or here, courtesy of attorney David Bernhard, via Emily Miller.  But when that's over, you should still strongly consider joining the class action.

Original post:

I've posted about the I-495 Express Lanes (on the DC Beltway) before.  But now I have fallen victim. I got on the Beltway to go to work a couple of months ago.  I don't do that very often -- probably hadn't done it at all since the Express Lanes went up -- and all of a sudden found myself alone on the Beltway, in some lanes partitioned off from other traffic.

And for the record, there wasn't any other traffic to speak of -- it was all going the normal 65 mph, and I wasn't gaining anything by being in the express lane.  I don't have an EZ Pass.  I got off at the very next exit, and rejoined the normal Beltway traffic and got into work, no problem.  But a few days later, I get a letter from I-495 Express.  It tells me that I owe them thirty-five cents (35 cents) for driving on their road for that stretch.  Oh, and by the way, I also owe them a $12.50 "administration fee" for their trouble of tracking me down to ask me for the 35 cents.

In other words, rather than simply forgive obvious mistakes like mine -- i.e. one-exit trips on the express lane, at a time of day when there is no traffic in that direction -- they have turned our mistakes into a potentially huge and predatory profit center.  It's not about the 35 cents, it's about the 12 dollars.  And I'm sure it doesn't cost them anywhere near that amount to send out a letter.  They are clearly making at least $10 off of every 35-cent mistake.

I had an IM exchange with them that I would reproduce here, except that it makes me too easily identifiable.  But the gist of it was that I was screwed.  If I didn't pay the $12 within 30 days of the letter, the "fine" goes up to $25.  And if I don't pay that, they turn it over to collections, with almost certainly a mark on my credit record.  I don't know what would happen if I had let them sue me -- I think I probably would have had some decent defenses.

It turns out if you pay on-line, the price is only about $10.  Still a huge and unwarranted profit for them.

So what we need is an ambitious class action lawyer to represent us to get our money back.  The legal theory is simply that it's toll road piracy by a private entity, taking advantage of mistakes, and that it's a farce to call it an "administrative fee" because their administrative expenses are clearly just a fraction of the total amount.  Discovery would be extremely useful here -- it would be nice to know just how much money they make off of this, and to get discovery on whose bright idea it was to impose the fee in the first place.

I'd be willing to help, but for various reasons, can't participate in a meaningful way.  If you are a class action lawyer and want to have some fun with this, I'd be happy to provide you more details about my situation -- just leave an email address in the comments.

And if this has happened to you and you want to join the class, just leave a note below (can be anonymous for now), tell us your story, and keep an eye on this space.

By the way -- the one tip I can offer to those of you, like me, who knew they were in the wrong lane and got off as soon as they could.  495Express has a program where if you know that you made that mistake, and are able to pay them $1.50 plus the missing toll before they are able to send you the letter demanding $12, you are off the hook.   Of course, it's difficult to figure this out until after you've gotten the letter.  Until then, you don't necessarily even know who you are dealing with.  Details here.

UPDATE:  As you can see from the comments below, part of the problem is that Transurban -- the Australian outfit that is sweeping in all of those "administration fees" -- apparently sometimes waits with sending you the letter until you've accumulated dozens of violations.  At that point, you might owe them about twenty bucks in tolls, but hundreds of dollars in "administrative fees."  I've now drafted a letter (available here) that you might consider sending if you find yourself in that position. In short, the letter includes a "payment in full" check, which, if cashed, should get you off the hook legally.  If they decide not to cash it and turn your account over to collections, you need to be sure to tell the collections people that the case is "in dispute," and you probably need to monitor your credit record as well to make sure that you are not improperly reported.  It's unlikely that you'll ever be sued on the matter, because it's not worth a lawyer's time to go after you for a few hundred dollars.


UPDATE 10/22/14:  Emily Miller of Fox 5 DC (who also seems to be a right-wing gun nut (http://www.amazon.com/Emily-Gets-Her-Gun-Obama/dp/1621571920) has done some real good here by shining a spotlight on Transurban and its predatory practices in two news segments in the past 10 days.  And she says that she'll keep on top of this issue, which is a good thing. But so far, she has absolutely zero constructive suggestions for how this will stop -- she just suggests that if you have a problem, you should contact Transurban.  Many commenters below -- and people who talked to Emily Miller -- can tell you how that goes.  She doesn't mention the possibility of bringing a class action, which I discuss at more length in various replies to this post.  As I said somewhere else, media attention of the kind that Emily Miller is giving the issue is just the kind of motivation that a class action lawyer needs.  Now someone just needs to go out and find one!  (I've posted phone numbers for three different firms below).

Emily's most recent article contains a rather significant math error, which I hope she corrects.

Here's the direct quote:

"Well, 96 percent [of customers having problems with Transurban] sounds good -- until you do the math. There are one million drivers on Transurban's 495 Express Lanes. So that means there are 4,000 people out there with these problems. And I found over a dozen of them in just one week."

Actually, if you really do the math, you realize that 4% of one million is 40,000.  That's a lot of drivers who have had problems with this company.  And it sounds like a pretty good size for a class action!

UPDATE 10/29/14:  Two very positive developments.  First, as reported by WTOP here, Transurban is going easy on "first time offenders" -- if you're a first time offender, after you receive an invoice, you have 60 days to prove that you have "rectified the issue and pay the tolls in full."

Here's a quote from a Transurban person named Coffee:

"If you get an invoice that has more than one trip, more than 10 trips, more than 15 trips, you call us. You tell us what the issue was, that you've put funds in your account. We collect your tolls and you move on. However, the next day, you've got that clean slate and it's up to you to ensure that you've got your EZPass properly mounted, that you've got funds in your account and that your license plate is linked to your EZPass so that you avoid that in the future," 

The article goes on to say that if a first-time violator's case goes to court, Transurban will cap the fees at $2,200. According to Coffee, "With the new program in place, we will not be seeking more than $2,200 on any first-time violator no matter what." 

The article is not very clearly written -- I can't be one hundred percent sure whether a first-time violator means a single violation or not, although from the context, it looks like you can be a "first time violator" with multiple violations.  Assuming the latter is the correct interpretation, it sounds like some of the commenters below should be able to get off for only $2,200.  Still a lot of money, but not necessarily bankruptcy-worthy.  If you're in that position, it sounds like you should call Transurban and ask how their new policy applies to you.

And here's a report about an ongoing court case -- Toni Cooley against Transurban.  Toni had over $10,000 in fines, including about $2000 in "administrative fees".  The judge wiped off the administrative fees because Transurban couldn't prove that it cost them that much money just to send out a few notices.  So that's good to hear -- the administrative fees are what set me off on this whole stupid thing to begin with.

UPDATE Nov. 17, 2014.  One of our readers is organizing a class action against Transurban.  I'm reproducing her post up here just so it doesn't get lost a a reply to a comment:

I am serious about a federal class action. I have an attorneys contact information and one other person that I have thus far met with that is moving forward with me. The more people, the more seriously we are going to be taken. email me - lmsdigiulio@gmail.com. Give me your total tolls (before any admin or civil penalties) and then give me your total paid/settled/etc.
For example: MINE: $14.20 total - $10,751.40 judgment



172 comments:

  1. Got nailed with this earlier this week. The difference is that I actually have an E-Zpass. I later found out that it wasn't working and I got the missed toll letter. Tried to dispute it and they basically say I am screwed because the toll wasn't collect at the time of the travel.

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    1. they are legal criminals and this has to stop. can we all get together and do something.?

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    2. If you've got an active penalty going, or have paid what you think is an exorbitant amount in settlement, find a class action lawyer (just google it!), and give them links to the LA Times article mentioned below (http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/02/local/me-tollroads2), as well as this blog. Then tell us what they say!

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  2. Sorry to hear it. Sounds like another profit center for them -- defective E-Zpass devices.

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  3. I got a bill for $289 for 21 missed trips, my ezpass wasn't mounted correctly apparently. They offered to remove 7 of the charges, which brings it down to $202. but they only send out the letters every 3 months (which is the real scam). Also you only get that discount once, not off every toll.

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  4. Please help me I received a letter about a week ago . I apparently have occurred 20 fee which total about 33.05 of tolls and 725.00 of administration fee . I was completely unaware that I was being charged or passing a toll of some kind I told them I would pay the 33.05 fee but not the 725.00 administration fee please help me with any information to remove this administration fee my email is
    Johnsonfamily 918@gmail.com

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    1. I am interested in knowing the outcome of your dispute.

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  5. Hi Delilah -- I tried responding here, but apparently my response went on too long. I've written a new post on this subject, with a suggestion for you, available here: http://pricefixer.blogspot.com/2013/08/i495-admin-fee-scam-part-ii.html

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  6. I used to take the left off 66 regularly. Now I don't. Didn't know it changed. Kept waiting to see a toll both. Fuck this bullshit administrative fee. It's robbery. Remove this comment if you don't like the language. I don't care. Just need to vent. I hope there peoples kids die on a in a speeding accident on this expressway!

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    1. I just got one of these letters. Was in the NOVA area on a Saturday visiting, am somewhat familiar with the area. Was coming back home hoping to take the 66 exit to the left, but got caught up on an exit lane that took me up to 29/Lee Highway. Now I've just received a letter saying I owe money for an EZPass violation for using this lane, I guess. No toll booth, no gate, on a Saturday no less. Makes me mad considering I kind of got swept up into the exit lane. It's not where I wanted to do.

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    2. Well, you can either pay them off, or contact Lisa Marie Comras (lmsdigiulio@gmail.com) and join the class action!

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  7. I recently received 3 summons to appear before court.
    ..in violation of 33.1-56.2, 1-495: from Interstate 395-95-495 to Dulles Toll Road SR 267...on 11/17/2012... following amounts are due and owing $1.20 for unpaid toll (s); $100.00 admin. fee; $72. costs; and $50.00 civil penalty, based on 1 offense within 2 years.
    For offense #2 dated ten days later on 12/27/2012 11:23am the civil penalty went to $250 based on 2 offenses within 2 years.
    Offense #3 on the same day as #2 the civil penalty was $500 on 3 offense in 2 years.
    $800 in civil penalties
    $300 admin fees
    $216 in 'cost'
    on a total of 3 tolls that amounted to $4.90. I don't even live in VA which makes driving through exhausting with all the construction/overpasses, lanes that are not lanes. AND WTH IS THIS COMPANY DOING. Whats up with the late notices??

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  8. Here's a copy of the comment I posted in reply to your comment under "Part II" of this post:

    Wow. That's outrageous. It looks like your problems were on the Dulles Toll Road (not the TransUrban EZ Pass Lanes), and they can be truly rough about enforcement. Here's a link to a story about a guy who ran up $200,000 in such fines, and had to settle for $40,000: http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6842

    I now see that there is a statute -- VA Code 33.1-56.3 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+33.1-56.3) that gives the toll operator the ability to issue summonses like that, and I'd be interested to hear from others whether they've gotten summonses from TransUrban.

    I strongly suggest you get a lawyer, and if you can't afford one, try calling around to legal aid organizations to see if anyone can help you. If that doesn't work just go to Court and do your best to (1) negotiate a deal with the prosecution, and (2) explain your position as best you can to the Court. If the Court ends up "convicting" you, and you don't pay, then based on the statute, your registration can be suspended and your license revoked. And you'll still owe all that money and probably more. You don't want that.

    Also, I see from the statute that if you are convicted of the second and third violations, that will result in demerit "points", which will likely affect your insurance rates. So if there's a way to cut a deal that removes those violations, that's something you should go for.

    Another option at this late stage would be to try to call the toll operator and try to negotiate with them. The Dulles Toll Road operator is Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA); their number is 1-877-762-7824 (If I'm missing something and this is actually the Transurban Group, their number is 571 419 6100)

    I personally think that the statute is unconstitutional -- a violation of the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eight Amendment, and also a violation of your due process rights. But it will be hard to find a lawyer to argue that for you cheaply, and it's also far from clear that a Court would agree with you (and me); the scope of the Excessive Fines Clause has been severely limited. Presumably the lawyer representing the $200,000 toll guy went through this analysis already.

    I'm very sorry about your troubles and wish you the best of luck -- please let us know how it turns out.

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    1. The 495 Express Lanes have found another victim and her name is ME!

      After spending months over the phone arguing an apparent computer glitch - I registered my EZ-Pass Device, added my credit card to the account however the system failed to charge me stating that I did not completely click through the radio button authorizing EZ Pay to use the credit card that was on file.

      The company who mans the 495 Hot Lanes is trying to nail me with $30,000 worth of fines. This past December one of the collectors from their company called me stating that they were a representative from the "National Police Association" a non-existent organization, in attempts to scare me.

      From my very first notice received in the mail. I have called and written several letters to no avail. I am willing to pay my tolls however this private AUSTRALIAN company's scam on AMERICAN commuters should not go unnoticed.

      Any suggestions as to a lawyer I may consult with about this? This is such a terrible thing to do to some who at the time was traveling the lanes in search of work of all things! (posting this twice, just in case) Thanks for all that you are doing here, I am sure that there are more victims like me who are dealing with the same sad situation.

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  9. I'd just gotten one of these letters for a one exit accidental trip in November (it's easy to accidentally get on the toll portion given that just about all of the exits from Tyson's Corner Center direct you onto the toll lanes...). Anyway, be aware that they've upped the "Administrative Fee" to $25 per incident.

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  10. Thanks for the update. $25 for an honest mistake. Those administration/administrative fees are one heck of a profit center for these people. Really shameful that that's the way people/corporations make money in this society nowadays -- just preying on other people's innocent mistakes.

    Remember though (as explained in the original post), if it happens again, and you realize it BEFORE they send the letter, you can go to their site (link above) and pay $1.50 plus the toll and you're in the clear.

    But of course, none of us will do it again. The people they are preying on are first-timers who won't have read this post.

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  11. I just got 4 letters from them that amount to $225.90. I have an E-Z Pass and have my credit card set up so that they can automatically charge it when the balance gets low. How is it my fault that they did not do this? The Admin fees are a joke! One bill the tolls are $32.00 and Admin fees are $87.50. Ridiculous!!!

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  13. I have been hit by them too. I unknowingly used the express lanes, and so owed them $0.60. There wasn't any information on how I could pay them, so I believed I would be contacted by them and was ready to pay the fines. What they did was, they sent me communication on my older address that I changed about 8 months back. Note that I had updated my address with DMV even befor I moved to new place. They somehow collected my old address, and kept sending me payment notices on the old address. I was never contacted on phone too. How would I know what do I owe to them or how to pay them?
    Anyways, one of my friends moved to the place where I used to stay earlier, and after few months, he gave me a bunch of old mails, and in there I found the notices. And what could be better than being asked to pay $100.60 for a due of $0.60.
    I explained the agent that my address was up to date with DMV, and its not my fault that 495 Express Lanes took my old communication address, but I was told nothing could be done now! So I paid $0.60 for unknowingly using their lane and $100 for their inability to get my correct communication address from DMV.

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  14. So you explained to them that it wasn't your fault (because they were sending the notices to the wrong address) and they STILL made you pay the $100? The people making money off of this should be really ashamed.

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  15. I was also nudged into this magical "express lane" during the holidays. Got my welcome letter from 495 Express Lanes! Perhaps I was blindly following my GPS (whos been known to go the wrong way) BUT, this is so blatantly predatory. And being near the DC area just tops it off. They are hoping everyone just looks the other way and drops $15 to be done with it.

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  16. Got scammed by these crooks, too. There was major construction happening at the 395/95/495 interchange and I did not realize I was on a toll road until it was too late. I am not from the area and thankfully I was just passing thru the #@$#!* commonwealth. Being an out of state resident, I do not have an ez-pass and had no prior knowledge a toll road existed without toll booths. (seriously?) I received a letter 2 months later claiming it was my "final notice" and saying I owed an "administrative fee" of $25 plus the original toll. (as if they sent a prior notice) I disputed the "admin" fee and said I would gladly pay the toll. Of course, they responded saying I had to pay the full amount or get sent to collections. Somebody please put a stop to this madness! This is entrapment and a violation of our civil rights!

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  17. Just one more example of the problem here. The poorly marked entrances -- which become all the more poorly marked when there is construction -- are a trap for the unwary, but when the unwary are trapped, Transurban is more than happy to demand its extortionate $25 fee.

    Some time ago, I was driving in Florida (near the Everglades) and accidentally went through something where I guess I was supposed to have a transponder. I got a letter in the mail -- with a picture of my car's license plate -- and a polite request for the exact amount of the toll, which I gladly paid. The difference was that the system there was run by the state -- which is concerned with the goodwill of out-of-state drivers -- whereas here in Virginia we've just got an Australian company trying to make a few bucks. Another reason that "private enterprise" isn't always the solution to everything.

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  18. got lost and got on 495 express lane. received a toll of 0.50 with admin fee of 12.50!!

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  19. Did not know it is toll road because I can not see any toll booth. Now get a bill $26.5. Argue with them. They did not agree to waive the administration fee. it is robbery.

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  20. Yeah, every once in a while I drive the same route that I took on that fateful day that I got nabbed -- i.e. where you take 66 West to 495 S. I have now figured out what happened to me -- it looked like the road branched, left or right. Both were indicated as 495-S, but my brain told me that the one on the right must be going North (right), so I took South (left), without noticing that (1) they were both for 495-S, and (2) that the distinction was the EZ Pass. It just wasn't a clear enough warning. But someone in Australia (Transurban) got $12 richer . . . .

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  21. I just got 6 court summons for fees and penalties totaling about $4800 for less than $15 in fees. Beside myself. Going to call them tomorrow.

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    1. Very sorry to hear it. This is out of control. Please let us know how it turns out.

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    2. Just went to court yesterday for 2 offenses. The 2nd offense was on 1/2/13, AFTER I had already ordered an EZ Pass. I showed them the EZ Pass account receipt dated 12/31/12 and they dropped the 2nd offense (would have been $500 fine). I paid $225 for 1st offense and court costs. The enforcers don't have access to EZ Pass accounts (which INCLUDE the license plate) so even if you have an EZ Pass, they still consider it a violation if the pass is not mounted properly.

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    3. Thanks for sharing this. I suppose the lesson is that the courts can be a little bit merciful if you have something to show them. Anything else you could tell us about the court proceedings would be very useful -- was this just traffic court? By "enforcers" are you referring to the prosecutors? How do the prosecutors feel about these EZ pass violations? I assume you tried to explain that the entrance was poorly marked, etc. -- did that get you anywhere?

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  22. I just got off the phone with them. Apparently on 495 my EZPass worked fine before this .60c stretch and worked fine through 200 e, but in this one spot it didn’t read. They are telling me that my EZpass may have bad batteries, and/or is improperly mounted... uh SMH well it worked flawlessly before and after this toll to which my EZ pass was charged accordingly. So now i am hit with a 12.50 admin fee on top of .60c. NICE! So I talked to a David M. (Customer Care Super visor who wouldn’t give a last name nor would give a business address) because I told them that I am going to take this to court and face my accuser because I want these fee's waived, but would be happy to pay the .60c. They quickly reduced the 12.50 to 1.50. I told them it’s still not right and I want to take it to court since this is absurd, it’s not about the $$ at this point. They actually acted like they were doing me a favor. After reading the other comments on here and are going through the same thing, they are a bunch of crooks! It doesn’t make any sense since now I will never contribute another dime for their roads. Crazy!

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  23. Thanks for sharing that. I suppose it does show some leniency on their part, but given that you had a working EZpass transponder -- which they could easily have confirmed -- it is pretty shocking that they wouldn't just let you off. And that they weren't apologizing to you, but instead were asking you for money that you didn't owe. If you are going to write them, my best guess at an address is:

    Transurban Group
    6440 General Green Way
    Alexandria, Virginia 22312

    (see http://pricefixer.blogspot.com/2013/08/i495-admin-fee-scam-part-ii.html)

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  24. Just got a notice for when I was visiting 4 months ago and was unaware that I was in an easy pass lane somewhere from I-66 to 495 (can't even remember any ez-pass signs and certainly no toll signs or warnings). I am even more glad that I live in NC and do not plan to come to 495-land ever again if I can at all help it. Will not spend any money in the area either.

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  25. I don't blame you. There ought to be a free pass for out-of-towners, since they aren't used to this sort of thing. But I guess that would cut into Transurban's profit margins. I bet they're making a boatload of money off of the unwary, and that it's all part of their calculus.

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  26. I took the the express lane knowingly because I was HOV 3+ compliant. Needless to say I was unaware I still needed an ezpass... WTF if there is no toll for HOV 3+ why do I need an easy pass... Scam Read the "fine" print while driving on the beltway is no way to do business!

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  27. Yeah. It sounds like just about everyone gets burned at least once. And they know that, which is why it's ridiculous that they charge that extra $12 for first-time offenders. They would generate a lot more good will if they simply notified us first-time offenders and warned us not to let it happen again. If that had happened to me, maybe I would have considered using the lanes one day.

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  28. Received a total of 61 court summons delivered by the sheriff of Fairfax County for the 495 hot lanes. This has really floored me and I need any advice you can offer on how to handle. I have an EZ Pass account and after speaking with a customer service rep they said the battery could be dead or the EZ was not mounted properly or negative balance are the reasons the toll charges were not processed. But I don't understand why I was not notified by VA or MD EZ pass before that many charges occurred without notice. I checked EZ Pass account and it currently shows active and up to date. I went to the Clerk at the court today and there was nothing they could offer as far as assistance with the summons. The charges total close to $70K but a pre-court settlement of $8K....OUTRAGEOUS!!! I don't have that kind of money for tolls fees that only total $172.00. Why would the state of VA allow such a rip off scam? I am at a lost for how to produce. If the sheriff did not show up to my house with the summons, I would have missed the court date and been total screwed. If anyone can please offer advice on how to get the handle court proceedings. If the tolls were not paid and you see I have an active EZ Pass account, then I have no problem paying the $172.00 but these charges they have told me over the phone is just highway robbery.

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    1. Wow. It sounds like so much is at stake here that you really need to find an attorney. Last November, a guy was hit with over $200,000 in fines and his attorney was only able to bargain them down to $40,000. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/20/toll-road-scofflaw/3656901/

      But your case is different, since you didn't know you were violating, and you never received notice. Maybe the right attorney can bargain them down or get the thing to go away. Googling for EZ pass attorney doesn't yield anything useful; my strong advice is that you make yourself a list of Virginia traffic attorneys near you (you'll be able to find dozens by googling), and then start calling them one-by-one to see whether they can handle your case -- and see if they have any insights for you along the way.

      It seems that if you can establish that your transponder was not working, AND that you didn't receive notice, that should put you in a pretty good bargaining position. Even if they can show that your account was in the red (and maybe they'll argue you should have known that), the lack of actual notice should make it hard for them to collect those outlandish fees.

      But again, there's so much at stake here that I think you really need to get a lawyer. If you find a good one -- or even if you don't -- please let us know.

      I also agree with you that much of the blame lies with Virginia (and presumably Maryland), for permitting this scam. Somebody should submit a request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and find out exactly who in government was responsible, and then hold them accountable.

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    2. Connect with me, we should talk...

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    3. I am facing $29,000 in fines for 27 violation where I did not know that my ezpass was not being charged as I was using the express lanes..I spent hours on the phone with transurban for over 1 month attempting to get them to see reason. They refused. Eventually they dropped it down to $4000 and since my story aired on Fox 5, Emily was able to get them to commit to $2500. Which I believe is still unreasonable. I went to court yesterday and refused to settle for this crazy $2500...now I'm facing a trial in February for the full $29,000..I'd think it's crazy if they win but I can't imagine paying these outrages prices for errors that are occurring without proper notifications and timely notifications.

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    4. I admire your courage and the principled stand you are taking, but I'm also very worried for you. I sure hope it works out.

      You should definitely contact Lisa-Marie Comras at lmsdigiulio@gmail.com about her class action lawsuit (see her replies in some of the comments here). It sounds like your case could fit right in.

      But remember, that's completely separate from trying to defend yourself in your February trial -- I hope you have a good lawyer for that!

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    5. Thank you! Just an update - we are now at 12 people that are simply sick and tired of this scam. We are working at getting everyone together sometime in the new year to meet and discuss each persons case and overall experience and then really get down to business. We have a reporter from WTOP that is eager to follow and report on our case so we will have media coverage. What we really need are more people with legitimate cases/settlements/judgments, etc.

      Thank you to this site, specifically (The Price Fixer) - our fight has been made possible to this site/thread.

      Happy Holidays. Again, anyone interested in joining our fight - email me lmsdigiulio@gmail.com - Lets not let them win. This is only going to get MUCH MUCH MUCH worse now that the 95 HOT Lanes have opened.
      FFX County added another judge and another courtroom to accommodate what it coming just from those new lanes.

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    6. Have you thought about trying to figure out when Transurban's cases are called every week, and then just going to the courthouse and talking to people? It seems like somebody -- maybe a reporter or a class action lawyer -- could get some good stories doing that for a day or two.

      Delete
    7. Yes, we have. We are working on a strategy to get those going in and coming out. We have our suit moving forward - can you post my email again - this, for me, is not about getting any $ - but transurban/ffx court/etc have to have some transparency and they have been left to run unchecked for far too long.
      lmsdigiulio@gmail.com
      Our attorneys have a questionnaire for anyone interested in joining.

      Lisa

      BTW - thank you for having this site for folks like me. You are an inspiration!

      Delete
    8. I put your contact info at the top of the original post, a few days ago; I just added some more info just now. And I also added it to the top of my other posts on this topic. I hope it helps!

      PS -- it looks like Emily Miller of Fox 5 DC is staying on top of this thing; at some point, you might want to contact her . . . .

      Delete
  29. Please inbox me if you would like to participate in a class action lawsuit. I'm sick of the collusive public/private revolving door scams. I'm not an attorney. but I plan on seeking one out to move forward with this issue.

    I just lost in the District Court of VA even after I stated case law and demonstrated lack of jurisdiction, monopoly, conflict of interest, etc.

    My email is robertrhoe@hotmail.com

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    1. I say that FOREIGN OWNED Transurban needs to understand that unfair debt collection in the USA will not be tolerated.

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    2. Inboxing you first thing!!! I am fed up!!!!!

      Delete
    3. Trent - if you are interested in joining our federal class action, email me lmsdigiulio@gmail.com
      I will send you the questionnaire that our attorney has created for whomever is joining our suit.

      Delete
  30. Good luck with that Robert -- please keep us posted; it would help a lot of people to hear what the attorneys you talk to say . . . And it would be fantastic if there's a viable class action. When they nickel and dime large numbers of people like that -- all the people who (like me) were only hit for $12.50 -- then sometimes a class action can make a lot of money for the lawyers.

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  31. I'm in the proccess of paying $8500 for $20 worth of tolls. They waited until I went through the toll 71 times with a credit card that expires on my EZ Pass. Then notified me. Then when I appealed they sent me to collection without any notice adn I am threatened with a $108,000 bill for possible legal costs. Unbelieveable extortion to its citizens.

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    1. yeah, the "extortion" is that they sold the concession to a predatory private company -- Transurban. Of course, you can't blame Transurban for trying to make its money back, but the problem is that the laws are set up to permit and encourage it to engage in these sorts of tactics . . .

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  32. I just paid my $1.50 + the $.95 toll for the accidental single-exit trip, and I have a feeling that that's only because the young lady helping me out was intrinsically nice (just forced to work there in a bad economy). It's sad to see that so many have been hit far worse, and that our society endorses extortion not only to unwitting passersby (I have lived in the DC area for >7 years, but just have not had to or wanted to travel the "express" lanes, but also the unfortunate young folks that run their "call centers." I really hope to see some sort of resolution to this scam as well...

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  33. Good work getting out of it -- I'm glad you were able to figure out how to do that before receiving their admin fee letter. For anyone else who has landed here BEFORE receiving the letter, go to the EZ Pass Va website and click on "missed a toll?" (gets you to https://account.495expresslanes.com/violation/missedAToll.do?cmd=gotomat.) There, you can pay $1.50 plus the missed toll.

    My problem was that I didn't know where to look/what to do when I missed my toll.

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  34. This has got to stop. Our relatives were visiting from Latin America. They do not know this area. They accidentally got in these lanes, because the GPS put them in these lanes! They sent us the bill as the owners of the car. We paid the $1.50 fine plus $12.00 Admin Fee, only AFTER sending in a dispute and explaining that these people were from out of the country and their GPS sent them there. They had NO mercy, and said we still had to pay the fine.
    Because we were waiting for the dispute to be answered, it turns out that we mailed the fine the same day it was due.
    So...much to our surprise, they have now slapped ANOTHER $50.55 fine on us. What to do now?
    This nonsense must stop. It seems we all need to lobby this to the VA Legislature.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm not going to be around for a couple of weeks, but if anyone wants to draft a letter for your Virginia representative for others to use as a model, feel free to do so here in the comments section!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I too have received a summons on 34 summons they want me to settle for $4,500 which of course the normal person does not have in their back pocket. UGH... they said I have a couple more that have not gone to court and some that are still in collections!! The ones in the summons if I don't pay the settlement amount by the court date the amount goes up to $37,729. Amazing. My advice to all work out a deal while it is still in collections. But my question is what happens if I don't go to court? Has anyone not appeared in court? what are the implications?

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    1. Connect with me! We should talk...

      Delete
    2. Sorry for the slow response -- just got back into town. I would NOT advise missing a court date. They would probably get a default judgment against you for the full amount, and eventually they'll be able to garnish your wages, put a lien on your house, etc. Not good. Having said that, I feel your pain. That's a ridiculous amount to pay for missed tolls. You should certainly consult a lawyer, but it might It might be that settling at the $4,500 figure is your the best bet -- you might well end up paying that much to a lawyer . . . . What we need is a lawyer willing to somehow take the whole scam on, as opposed to simply defending individual victims..

      Delete
    3. Yes!!!!! We do need a lawyer to take them on!!!!

      Delete
    4. I am serious about a federal class action. I have an attorneys contact information and one other person that I have thus far met with that is moving forward with me. The more people, the more seriously we are going to be taken. email me - lmsdigiulio@gmail.com. Give me your total tolls (before any admin or civil penalties) and then give me your total paid/settled/etc.
      For example: MINE: $14.20 total - $10,751.40 judgment

      Delete
    5. I went ahead and copied Lisa-Marie's comment into the main post, since it's too important to get lost. But if you're interested in joining the class action, feel free to comment right here!

      Delete
  37. I'm in the military currently stationed in MD. My vehicles are registered in TN because in the military we are not required to switch them over. So I never got a letter from 495 express lanes and didn't know anything about it it until it hit my credit report. I don't even remember ever driving on the toll road. Now, even after I explained the situation, they want $100.90 and refuse to take it off of my credit report. Said they will update it as paid but that I should have taken care of it sooner and it wouldn't have gone to collections. I'm happy I can serve my country just so companies like that can screw me over.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Update: I'm the military member stationed in MD posted just above this comment. Upon explaining that I'm in the military and because of not being required to change my registration, I never received their letters, the representative told me to not try to use my service to my advantage because it won't get me very far and that they gave me plenty of notice. Needless to say our conversation didn't go very well after that. So now I'm stuck with this blemish on my credit report for the next 7 years all because their "plenty of notice" went to an old address.

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  39. The 495 Express Lanes have found another victim and her name is ME!

    After spending months over the phone arguing an apparent computer glitch - I registered my EZ-Pass Device, added my credit card to the account however the system failed to charge me stating that I did not completely click through the radio button authorizing EZ Pay to use the credit card that was on file.

    The company who mans the 495 Hot Lanes is trying to nail me with $30,000 worth of fines. This past December one of the collectors from their company called me stating that they were a representative from the "National Police Association" a non-existent organization, in attempts to scare me.

    From my very first notice received in the mail. I have called and written several letters to no avail. I am willing to pay my tolls however this private AUSTRALIAN company's scam on AMERICAN commuters should not go unnoticed.

    Any suggestions as to a lawyer I may consult with about this? This is such a terrible thing to do to some who at the time was traveling the lanes in search of work of all things! (posting this twice, just in case) Thanks for all that you are doing here, I am sure that there are more victims like me who are dealing with the same sad situation.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Check out all of my posts throughout this site.
      If you are interested in joining our federal class action, email me
      lmsdigiulio@gmail.com
      $14.20 in tolls is now a judgment of $10,751.40

      Delete
  40. I too have fallen victim to the FOREIGN owned Transurban commute trap. Going to work in the first three months's of 2013, I incurred tolls that totaled less than $45. My EZ Pass account has an autopayment with a pre-paid VISA (due to ID theft, I don't use one tied to my bank); My first notice of the total Transurban collection costs they want was delivered by a court servicer in May of 2014. My tags are tied to the same address for over a decade. Which became apparent when a bundle of notices followed in the mail the week after.

    When I called Transurban, I was offered a 'settlement' amount of $3500 - still beyond my comprehension and was told there was no means to mediate or negotiate that amount outside of court.

    This foreign 'blue chip' stock company is suing me for $4,500 in unpaid tolls fines and 'administrative fees' (???) for what was less than $45 in tolls. I wasn't speeding or endangering anyone's life with dangerous driving -- how did I incur a penalty that is more than my living expenses by going to work?

    None of the comments above look encouraging for my case. I wonder what Transurban's Austrailian shareholders would react to a them being sued for abusive collections practices? It seems they have a pattern of waiting until the total exceeds the court's dollar amount for litigative attention and thus the excessive collection amounts. I shouldn't be forced to invest in a foreign company to pay for their tolls.....

    I don't have a problem paying for the outstanding tolls and a reasonable late fee, but $45 to $4500 is abusive, not to mention the credit damage this causes.

    At least I am not alone in this scam. What can we do to regain a rational commute?

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  43. Its July 3, 2014 and I have been on the phone with the reps from the customer service center for 5 hours on and off. I received notice of my violations when a man knocked on my door one morning serving me a summons and informing me of my fines and fees. I called them on June 27th and spoke with Malinda who is a manager. She told me that my violations would be due on July 3. (which I would come to later find out is not 3 business days before my court date) However, she put in the notes that they were due on on July 2nd. So I called on the 3rd and spoke with Emma to pay the outrageous $1,100 fine and she refused to take the payment b/c of Melinda's notes. I asked to speak to Melinda and was told she would call me back in an hour. I called back approximately 10 minutes later and spoke to Pat who was so rude. She refused to let me speak to Malinda. She didn't even make an attempt to reach her. She said I am not allowed to speak to management. When I asked Pat to confirm it was Malinda that I spoke to the very first time I called she stated, I can't give out that information. I told Pat, "But Emma just told me her name was Malinda & she would be calling me in an hour plus you guys give your name in the greeting!!" Pats response was "WELL THERE YOU HAVE IT!!!!" I responded, "What are you talking about?" and Pat response was "We do have a Malinda who works here." I hung up the phone after her statement because it was getting ready to get ugly between her and I.
    I called back and I reached Betty who started off being nice but ended up being meh. Betty put me on hold so long I hung up and called back and luckily was reconnected back to her. Betty claimed that her and "Malinda listened to the audio and Malinda DID state that she told me to pay on the 3rd but corrected herself and I agreed." That is a lie!!!! I know for a fact that Malinda told me to pay on the 3rd and I even repeated what she said by asking, "Can I make a payment arraignment?." Melinda said, "No." and I said "OK, I'll just pay on the 3rd and Malinda said OK. I asked to listen to the audio and of coarse they said I couldn't. However, I'm sure if the call was in their favor there would not be an issue playing back the audio!
    So, after an hour and a half I called back because it had been over an hour and hadn't heard from Malinda and I spoke with Pat again. I told Pat that Malinda was suppose to be calling me back within an hour and it was way past that. Pat told me that "Malinda was never suppose to call me back." I hope you guys can see where I'm going with this! Pat told me I had two options: 1. go to court and pay $4000 in penalties or 2. call the court and ask for a continuance which would extend my " Three business day out of settlement option". I asked Pat for Malinda supervisors name and of coarse she cant give out that information.
    Finally I called back one more time and I spoke with Jizelle. She told me to call and ask for a continuance on Monday or show up in court and ask for the continuance. She told me that Malinda was gone for the day, supposedly had just left 5 minutes before I called. She also told me that she could not give out Malinda's managers information only Malinda can do that.
    I just hope that someone with a lot of time, patience, and money sues the crap out of them for fraud or whatever they can sue them for. This place is a scam!!! What type of company can't give out a managers name or upper level managements information. What is the big secret?? What are the customer service managers doing that they can't answer or return a phone call?...because this is a CALL CENTER and the line employees are doing all the work/taking all of the calls?!?!?
    I wonder if anyone has every took the violations to court? I'm sure everyone either attempts to dispute or settle for the out of court settlement. Seeing as though you risk paying 3 times the amount of the fees if you loose.

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    1. Thanks very much for writing all that up and posting it Trent. I agree with you -- let's all hope for the day when someone with a lot of time and patience figures out a way to hold this company legally accountable. From your account, it sounds like they go out of the way to hire "customer service" representatives who enjoy jerking their victims around.

      What continues to bug me is that the State of Virginia has given a private organization (from Australia, no less!) the power to extract what amount to criminal penalties against people -- many of whom have perfectly good defenses. Although it's true that ultimately they have to make their case in court, the system is set up to allow them to do just that. And as you say, given the potential downside of going to court, most people are going to settle for whatever they can.

      In answer to your last question, I'm not sure -- every case I've read about seems to have settled out of court. Here's a link to another fairly recent one: http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/read/2/1479862.html

      You might consider sending your writeup to ticketbuster@wtop.com. Although that article seems almost sympathetic to Transurban, WTOP seems to be saying they might be able to help you, or at least get more attention for the issue..

      Delete
    2. Thanks for relpying and for the information. I will write, email, tweet, and fbook until some attention is brought to this matter. There's not a doubt in my mind that VA is getting a nice percentage of the the money Transurban is bringing in. That's how they give a private Australian company power to do this. Politics!!!

      Delete
  44. I got the "letter" for $3.80 PLUS the $12.50. I have an E-Zpass and it worked before and after so I know it works. It is also mounted exactly as directed. I just opened a dispute with them and told them the same things. I said I'd pay the $3.80 in toll as I owe that but they can waive their absurd fee...... I also informed them of my attorney looking into this issue (I have prepaid legal, best thing in the world !) still waiting for their response.

    I'm from Michigan and purposely bought an E-zpass in Pa. so I wouldn't have to deal with this crap during our family vacation. Worked on all the toll raods except this one stretch.

    I'm all in for the class action suit.

    Todd

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Todd, Message me lmsdigiulio@gmail.com
      I had $14.20 in tolls and now have a judgment of $10,751.40.

      Delete
  45. Sorry the Australians had to put such a damper on your vacation -- please let us know what your lawyer says, and if you're able to avoid paying that annoying $12.50!

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  46. not sure if the attorney scared them or if they have a lightened heart but I was contacted by "Bryan N.495 Express Lanes Team Lead/Supervisor" who reduced the fee to $1.50. They attached a VERY clear photo of the front of my truck with a box encircling the area where my transponder is mounted, saying it isn't. odd as you can see me, the wife etc, but not the unit......

    Either way, I paid the $1.50 extra and wil never be on a toll road in Va. again.

    Todd

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  47. Congrats Todd -- you're the first one who's had a "reasonable" experience!

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  48. Thanks for starting this board! I am hoping I can find help. July 2014 - I received a total of 51 court summons for the months of Mar – June 2013 for $51,000 due to $100 worth of tolls, which I disputed online immediately.

    The summons was delivered by a court servicer for Transurban collection costs related to the 495 hot lanes. When hearing $51,000, I totally lost it and said “this can’t be realistic…I disputed those charges in 2013 stating that I have an active Maryland EZ Pass transponder that didn’t automatically replenish due to an expired credit card”. And the court servicer's response was “Everyone is saying that” and to bring my documents to court. My court date is July 23 2014. I have been devastated since then and honestly can't believe that this is legal. And now even worse due to the responses on this blog. I feel that there is no way to avoid the thousands of dollars of legal costs. Does anyone know of a lawyer that can help me to lower the cost? Has anyone appeared in court? If so what were results? And this is the response I received from my dispute:
    Thank you for filing your dispute with www.495expresslanes.com.

    The charges were not accepted by your E-ZPass agency during the trips in question, which caused an invoice to be mailed to you.

    The most common reasons why a transponder would not be read, or why the charges were not accepted are as follows: the transponder was not properly mounted on the windshield, there were insufficient funds on your account during the time of the trip, the battery in the transponder was running low, your transponder was not activated prior to the trip, the license plate is not linked to the account or was entered incorrectly and recent payment has not yet been received.

    To prevent further invoices, we recommend that you contact your E-ZPass agency to resolve any issues with the account.

    We are unable to bill your E-ZPass account directly for the trip in question and all charges are still valid; however, paying your invoice online will still grant a discount of $2.50. Failure to make payment may result in escalating fees or penalties. For available payment options, please refer to the reverse side of your toll invoice or visit our website at www.495expresslanes.com.

    For further questions, please contact us at 1-855-495-9777, Monday through Friday (7:00 AM to 7:00 PM).

    Safe Travels,

    Miranda N.
    495 Express Lanes Team Member

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    Replies
    1. I sure hope someone can help you. With $51,000 at stake -- and only a few days until the court date -- I strongly recommend you immediately just start calling lawyers who handle traffic cases and explain the situation. You would do us all a service if you were able to find a decent one and make a recommendation. And just talking to them will help you understand what your options are. Remember, you don't have to pay anything until you agree to retain them, so often the initial call to the lawyer is where you can get some very good -- and free -- advice.

      It seems to me that the "expired credit card" defense ought to be pretty good. I personally don't check my credit card statements as carefully as I should, and don't always realize until notified e.g. by the cable company that my automatic credit card payment has bounced because the card expired (or had to be replaced because lost). I also don't open my mail as often or as carefully as I should. So much junk mail nowadays pretends to be "important" and "urgent" that it's very easy to miss important stuff from an unfamiliar sender. If you can persuade the judge and/or Transurban that that's what happened -- i.e. your credit card expired, and you didn't realize that particular card was the one you had given to EZ Pass, and you didn't receive their invoices or realize that that's what they were -- then you'd think they would show some mercy.

      But again, I really think you need a lawyer. Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out.

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  49. You should call the court house ASAP and ask for a continuance. Ask the clerk for the latest date possible. This will buy you time to obtain a lawyer and come up with a game plan. Also you can go to court and ask for a continuance during your hearing because you need a lawyer. Hope this helps

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  50. Thanks so much everyone. Great to hear! I will asked for a continuance. So nervous as the time is ticking.....

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  51. Hello. Just got back from court. I tried the request for continuance over the phone but it was too late. So here's the scenario: There is a young lady and man who basically stays there all day representing Transurban to negotiates I495 fees. I decided to get there early to see other cases before mine, however, the court was not in session. So I just sat in the courtroom. There was about 10 other people there also. Some with lawyers others were by themselves as myself. Pretty much everyone prior to my case was responsible to pay some sort of fee. I guess it depended on the number of the violation (1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th). Or if you had evidence that the EZPASS paid the toll. Even with that, the lady still had to pay the court fees. Anyways, the lady walks up to me asking if I was there to pay 1495 fees. I answered yes. Then she asked if she can talk to me for a settlement. So we walked to the back in a closed area. She went on explaining why I received the summons and if I was to settle before seeing the judge how much it would cost. And of course, if I didn't settlement the possible cost. I explained my story "expired credit card" which pretty much didn't get me anywhere. So she said for 51 tickets ($51,000, I can settle for 8, which will be $8,000). I wanted to say "kiss my ...". Anyways, I told her how unfair and ridiculous she sounds for wanting that kind of money. But of course, she totally tuned me out and went to explaining how there is a 5 plus year payment plan and it's state law that was violated...blah, blah. At this point, I would hate to take the chance to have owed any higher amount so I told her I would settle. I went back in the courtroom waited for the judge to call my name. He said based on the agreement he is explunging 43 tickets so I will be responsible for 8. Then I signed an agreement letter. Ugggghhh....So there it is! I began with 51 tickets that actually equated to $100 however escalated to $51,000. Then was left to pay penalty and fines for 8 tickets that equated to 12.00 but now stuck with a $8,000 debt.

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  52. Thanks very much for writing that up -- it will help a lot of people (most people who try to google the problem seem to end up here). I know it's small consolation -- $8000 is outrageous, especially given that you had a legitimate defense -- but you did better than the poor guy whose lawyer was able to "negotiate" $202,000 down to $40,000 for some Dulles Toll Road violations. Your story at least gives people a sense of what to expect. Some mercy, but not enough.

    Did you happen to notice whether the people who had lawyers were able to do any better than the ones who didn't?

    If anybody knows an intrepid reporter, it sure would be nice to get someone to write a news story about exactly what goes on during these settlement conferences (and before the judge) on a given day. I bet there are a lot of heartbreaking stories in that courthouse every day (but I don't even know if they have hearings every single day, or if they save them up . . . ).

    What courthouse was it, by the way?

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  53. It's me again..The hearings occured in Fairfax County General District Court.. And it seems even with lawyers, some tickets will be reduced resulting fines and penalties to be paid. Tje amount reduced depend on the amount of the tickets. Oh and by the way the judge sees each ticket and fine as a joke. Finds it very funny. Anyways, I just received mail indicating that all of the $8,0000 is due within a month or my license will be suspended. So I will be calling the courts on tomorrow, I was under the impression that I will be on a payment plan. Ughhh..this never stops....

    PM

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  54. Thanks for the additional information. Sorry to hear about the judge; often the robes make people lose perspective, not to mention sympathy. I note that above you said that the lady said "5 plus year payment plan." If she really said that, and it's untrue, and you relied on it to settle, then that's pretty messed up -- it practically sounds like fraud to me (she made a misrepresentation that caused you to do something you wouldn't otherwise have done). But there probably isn't much of a remedy for that; the Court might let you get out of the settlement, but that just means you're back under the original 51 tickets again.

    Calling the court seems like a good idea, but they might well tell you that your beef now is with Transurban. I have to believe that Transurban will allow for a payment plan (they'd be stupid not to, since at some point, they really will be driving people into bankruptcy).

    Anyway, I appreciate the update, sorry you're going through this, and good luck to you. Keep us updated as things progress (if you have time and don't mind).

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  55. PM again. Called the courts for a payment plan. This whole thing seems weird. Transurban is no longer in the picture. Everything is now has transferred with the courts. Even the paperwork is now he stating that I owe the courts. When the original paperwork stated that I owed Transurban. I noticed the transfer (payee) happened after seeing the judge. Maybe this is why the process is so quick to go to collections then quickly to the courts. Anyways, the courts sent me paper work for a payment plan. 3 yrs $200 mthly for a debt of 7K. And the payment plan was set up with the courts rather Transurban.

    PM

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    1. I'm in a rush this morning -- and possibly all week -- but I wanted to thank you again for continuing to post. I have to admit I'm confused now. Are you sure that the young lady you negotiated with in the first place was from Transurban, or was that just your assumption based on what you learned here? It just seems weird for a private company to negotiate on behalf of the state like that. From my research, I definitely had the impression that toll penalty money would go to Transurban, but now you have me thinking I might have gotten that wrong. I'll work to straighten this out when I have a chance.

      In the meantime, I just found this interesting link: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/02/local/me-tollroads2

      It turns out some lawyers sued the Orange County Transportation Authority back in 2009 for a similar escalation of fines against motorists, arguing (as I suggested in my original post) that it was a violation of the Constitution's Excessive Fines Clause. And there was a settlement in which Orange County forgave over $40 million in fees. Here's how the article describes the lead plaintiffs:

      "Among the motorists is Rosemarie Sepeda of Riverside County, who alleged that OCTA fined her almost $133,000 for $1,195 in unpaid tolls. Brian and Stephanie Young, also of Riverside County, faced $61,580 in fines for failing to pay $635 in tolls to OCTA."

      That sounds a bit like you -- the fines are about 100 times as high as the tolls (I think for you it might be more like 300 times as high). Anyway, that tells me that there was something in it for the lawyers.

      So instead of calling traffic lawyers to try to get you off the hook, you might just call some personal injury lawyers and let them know about the Orange County settlement. That shouldn't cost you anything -- presumably, they'd take the case on a contingency, make a class action out of it, and could make good money -- and great publicity -- off a judgment or a settlement no matter what.

      Delete
    2. Oh, and at the very end of the article it spells out how the lawsuit created a beneficial change:

      "The settlement requires the maximum fine per toll violation to drop from $500 to $180 while the total fine imposed on a motorist cannot exceed 20 times the amount of the unpaid tolls. Total penalties have gone as high as 52 times the amount of the unpaid tolls, according to court records."

      I question their math -- like I said, the total fines of those lead plaintiffs seem to be over 100 times their tolls -- but in any event, the 20-times rule would be a lot more decent.

      Delete
  56. Hey guys I just paid my fine $1,100.00! Eleven hundred dollars for 10 tickets that were worth no more than $15.00 combined. I am sick to my stomach. I could have went out of the country with that money. Although its bull I am fortunate not to be in the shoes of the people who wish they ONLY had to pay $1,100. I live for the day Transurban is in court. Until then Happy Driving!

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  57. Thanks for letting us know Trent; glad it's in your rear view mirror now. Assuming your $15 is accurate, then they multiplied your fine by 73. As mentioned in my last response to PM, some lawyers out in California were able to get a multi-million dollar settlement based on a few stories like yours and PMs. You could be the one to take Transurban to court -- just call a personal injury lawyer and see what they say!

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  58. Hi PM here! Thanks so much for the information. You are correct I assumed that the young lady that negotiated with me was from Transburban. But after receiving the payment plan paperwork. I honestly believe she represented the state. Anyways..most definitely, I am going to look into a personal injury lawyer. My toll prices ranged from $1 to $6 but the penalty max charge (which I was charged) for each one was $1000. I will let you know what the lawyers say!

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  59. Thanks for following up PM -- Maybe it's just the "administration fee" that goes to Transurban. But even that's outrageous -- $12.50 for a 35 cent toll, more than a 35x multiplier. A friend recently showed me a toll-charge-by mail that he'd gotten for driving on the Maryland connector -- they simply mail you, and then you have to pay the price of the toll. Of course, if you don't pay the price, there's a multiplier, but at least the initial mailing is not extortionate.

    Anyway, I very much look forward to hearing if you're able to get a class action/personal injury lawyer interested. I just googled "class action lawyer Virginia" and a few lawyers turned up; I also learned from one of the hits that there's no such thing as a class action in Virginia state court (apparently it's the only state in the country that doesn't provide for class actions), but that shouldn't be a problem -- there's enough at stake to make this a federal class action ; potentially lots of money, diversity of plaintiffs, and also a constitutional issue (the Excessive Fines clause). If you don't like what you're finding in Virginia, you can also try DC lawyers.

    Remember to provide them a link that LA Times article I mentioned: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/02/local/me-tollroads2. There does seem to be a good bit of money to be made here.

    I don't know how the fact that you've already settled your case plays into this. I personally think that this kind of coercive settlement remains part of the problem -- they hit you with a totally ridiculous amount, and then you end up settling for an amount that is still objectively ridiculous. But I don't know how a court (or a lawyer looking for a lead plaintiff in a class action) would view it.

    Again, you've got nothing to lose by calling a few lawyers and seeing what they say. And if you post the information here, that will be useful for the next victim. Good luck!!

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  60. I was fortunate enough to get the first notice for my "90 cent" toll trip. Of course they have their 12.50 Admin fee. I paid, but am still angry at the fact that I had to pay for driving on a horribly marked road. Next time I take my leave I will definitely have to be careful to not end up in some of the situations I've read about here.

    Good luck for the rest of you, and I hope it gets settled.

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  61. I honestly think all these $12.50 fees could be part of the class action also. I'm not aware of other states that charge such exorbitant admin fees -- most of them just seem to send you a letter asking for the toll amount. And as I've mentioned before, my guess is that the $12.50 is pure profit to Transurban, whereas all those other penalties may well end up going to the State of Virginia.

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  62. I just got a court summons for 2 tols and they want me to pay around $900 dollars. I know I have alot more comming. Probably like 30 or so. I never got any bill for these, and now a court summons. I just figured the lanes were free for a while, mch like the ICC was when it first opened. What the F***. This seems so illegal that they can charge us 50,000 dollars for 30 tolls or whatever. I hope they all burn in hell. Has anybody beat this? What can we do to stop this madness. Do they think we are all rich people that can blow money. I have a regular job, 2 kids, and not alot of extra money. Im not paying them 50g's for a few tolls and screw my kids. Assholes.

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    1. I agree with you totally and feel your pain. I keep telling people that they need to call a lawyer who will bring a class action on a contingency fee basis. Here's my advice from a few comments up:

      1. Look up class action and/or personal injury lawyers on the Internet. Find one close to where you live, preferably in Virginia. But you can also try DC.

      2. Call them and explain the situation, and explain some of the other stories you've seen on this blog.

      3. Give them a link to http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/02/local/me-tollroads2, and let them know that lawyers in California were successful with an argument based on the Constitution's Excessive Fines Clause, and got a settlement of $40 million.

      4. Don't stop calling lawyers until you find one that will take the case.

      5. Do this FAST, before your court date if possible. And then see if the Court will give you a continuance (i.e. reset your court date for some time in the future) based on the fact that you only just found a lawyer.

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  63. I am going to court tomorrow for similar. My EZ Pass cc had expired (I wasn't aware) and my husband was driving the car and I didn't even know he was driving on the road. I will let you know how it goes. I'm petrified and am interested in pursuing justice once i find out the verdict on my cases. Will be in touch. Outrageous doesn't even describe it. People who face DUI charges have a lesser penalty than this. Unconstitutional.

    Can anyone tell me if they ask you what you plead?? I don't even know what to say!!!

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    1. I don't think they ask you that, because this is a "civil" offense, not a criminal offense. But if they do, the best answer is always "not guilty." Anything else makes it too easy on the prosecutors.

      It sounds like you have a pretty good case for getting some sympathy and maybe even some leniency. I hope things go well for you, but if they don't, I strongly encourage you just to call a few personal injury/class action lawyers (as recommended above, to others) just to see what they say.

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    2. Thank you for your advice. I am wondering if anyone knows the result of a trial. I did go to the hearing where the negotiator (she does work for 495 ExpressLanes, by the way) asked to speak with me (without identifying herself until I asked) in a private room before the hearing. She tried to bully me into paying a settlement for thousands of dollars, before seeing a judge. I declined and now have a trial and am facing a much larger amount. If anyone knows a lawyer familiar with Transurban and these cases, I would be grateful for their contact information. In addition, I am also interested in a class action suit. There were others there who took settlements in the thousands. Others declined and are facing the same as I am. There must be more people out there and I am wondering how we can get everyone together that is in the process on a trial, or who has settled for a ridiculous amount.

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    3. Thanks for posting. I hope somebody responds with some solid advice, but a lot of the people who have posted here seem to have settled and might have put the whole issue behind them. So the only person you can count on reading your posts is going to be me. So far, I haven't heard any reports of the results of any trial. Again, I strongly urge you to just start calling lawyers and finding out what they say. Since you're going to trial on the charge against you, I think you need an attorney who handles traffic cases for that. If you call enough of them, you're bound to find someone who knows something about EZ Pass violations.

      I think the class action has to be a separate matter, handled by a different kind of attorney. But once you find a traffic lawyer who has had experience with this kind of thing, then maybe he or she will be able to hook you up with a class action lawyer.

      I think a good class action lawyer will be able to gather up a group of people facing the same problem (apparently, he or she would just need to show up in court on the right day to meet a bunch of potential plaintiffs), and pretty soon that will be enough to start an action. But somebody's got to get the lawyer interested. Maybe that can be you!

      Please keep posting here -- until this issue gets wider attention, this blog seems to be the only way to keep everyone informed (and as you saw, there are new people every day getting hit with these court cases and proposed multi-thousand dollar settlements).

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    4. Thank you. I am in the midst of researching. It may take some time but I am committed. If there are others out there that see this- please post!! Especially anyone who has found a lawyer that has gone to trial. I am happy to post contact information once I see there is someone to connect with. Thanks again and will post if/once I have anything to update!!

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  64. I've been doing some research but haven't been successful in finding a way out of paying these fees for an accidental trip on the express lane. This is in every way a scam. I'm fed up to the point where I've thought about doing unspeakable things to this company (yeah scary to me too) but everyone reaches their boiling point. I've decided to pay for now with hopes there is a class action suit brought against these crooks. The whole dispute price is a joke and the image of my car they sent me, doesn't depict me in any toll lane. It shows a picture of my car from above. I don't see how that could even hold up in court. Shouldn't they have a picture of people violating the toll both they claimed I drove through? Please count me in for any law suit if someone finds means to make this possible. Oncojj@gmail.com.

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  65. Thanks for reporting and checking in. I agree it's a scam and I also think that it's unconstitutional as a violation of the Excessive Fines Clause. My current best guess is that the admin fees go to Transurban, but the fines are collected by the Commonwealth of Virginia. If a multi-thousand dollar fine for accidentally driving in the express lane is not "excessive" I don't know what is. If it's excessive in California it's excessive in Virginia.

    But we need a lead plaintiff to find a lawyer and bring the case. Or alternatively, we need a lawyer to find a lead plaintiff and bring the case!

    Come on, I know there are some out-of-work lawyers out there!

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  66. Thanks for your dedication to this terrible scam. Just got a "final toll invoice" in the mail. I live in FL and was visiting my parents in Maryland. I had to take care of something in the Reston area. It has been so long since I had driven around that area. I am not even sure; I remember paying some tolls but then my GPS took me on a wild goose chase--put me on the wrong exit and I got confused. I couldn't figure out how to get off and turn around so I ended up in DC and got home from there. My parents live right outside DC so I think I took 395 the whole way down. I am hoping and praying that this was the only toll I missed. But I swear I didn't see any toll booths. I certainly didn't run any tolls. But from what I have read, apparently they don't need to have any toll booths. I don't have an EZpass so I was relying on the toll booths to pay the tolls--which I honestly thought I did! The toll in question was $2.85 and it was "From Dulles Toll Road SR267 to Interstate 395-95-495." I know there will Be some nay-sayers who will say...should've had an EZpass...but I live in Florida and have no need for one. Just had to take care of something up there in that area and never got a notice before this. A total of $27.85 for a 2.85 toll. They will *kindly* offer a $2.50 discount if I pay online. How gracious of these crooks! All I know is that I got off on the wrong exit, totally lost and unaware of any tolls. Rode it down into DC. I hope they don't slap me with more.

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    1. Thanks for writing, and thanks for thanking me. Let's hope you never hear from them again. Sadly, I'm not really doing anything except letting people tell their stories here. If I had more time on my hands, I'd take a morning to call a number of personal injury/class action lawyers myself to see if I could get any bites. I still think a lawyer could make some good money by holding these people -- Transurban and the Commonwealth of Virginia -- accountable.

      Speaking of Florida, I think I mentioned above that when I went through a toll booth without paying (accidentally) down there, I just got a nice letter in the mail asking for the $1.50 toll or whatever. Now that's a civilized state. I feel very bad for the people who are paying thousands of dollars, and perhaps I'm lucky I got off by paying only $12.50 or whatever it was. But still, that $12.50 admin fee -- especially for first timers, who clearly only got on by accident, like you and me -- is just legalized extortion.

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  67. I just received 17 notices of summons and I know more are coming totaling so far over $20k. My court date is in December and I am terrified.

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    1. Meant to hit "reply" but I guess I wrote a new post in this comment thread. I'll just reproduce it here (sorry for the duplication):

      Ok -- you've got time, but not much. Start calling lawyers now (see advice to others above) and let us know what they say. Again, there could be money in this for a good class action/personal injury lawyer -- the lawyers in California probably made millions off of that settlement. Note that a Virginia lawyer might give you the knee-jerk response that Virginia state courts don't provide for class actions. But that just means the case should be brought in federal court -- find a lawyer who is not scared of making a federal case out of this!

      You could start by just calling the Cochran Firm (named for the late Johnnie Cochran) http://www.cochranfirmdc.com/) (1-800-The firm) and see what they say. I'm not endorsing them, I'm just pretty sure they will talk to you.

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  68. Ok -- you've got time, but not much. Start calling lawyers now (see advice to others above) and let us know what they say. Again, there could be money in this for a good class action/personal injury lawyer -- the lawyers in California probably made millions off of that settlement. Note that a Virginia lawyer might give you the knee-jerk response that Virginia state courts don't provide for class actions. But that just means the case should be brought in federal court -- find a lawyer who is not scared of making a federal case out of this!

    You could start by just calling the Cochran Firm (named for the late Johnnie Cochran) http://www.cochranfirmdc.com/) (1-800-The firm) and see what they say. I'm not endorsing them, I'm just pretty sure they will talk to you.

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  69. Apparently we are dealt by some scam artists. I got a bill, which I disputed prompted. The automatic dispute receipt came within seconds. Without hearing anything back, there came the second bill which pushed the administration fee to $25. I checked my email, as well as the online account, nothing whatsoever. So I disputed again, but nothing came back. There is no trace in the online account that multiple disputes has been filed. What the point of they providing a 'dispute' button on their website, just to delay the payment so that they can claim more egregious administration fee? I can't find anywhere how to complain for this scam.

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    1. One of the law's final checks on misbehavior by business is the class action lawsuit. I'm not a big fan of them -- often they are just a way for lawyers to make money -- but in this case it seems to be called for. We have a business gouging commuters with extortionate "administration fees". I think this is a separate issue from the fines (which I think go to the state), and may warrant a separate class action against Transurban alone. If it turns out that Transurban has been making millions off of these administration fees, then a class action could cause them to cough some of that up, and a lawyer bringing the case would get a nice percentage of that. If you care about this issue, just call a class action firm and see what they say. I gave out the phone number for the Cochran Firm in a previous reply, here's a number for Saiontz and Kirk --(800) 522-0102 (http://www.youhavealawyer.com/). This isn't their normal kind of case, but they will give you a free consultation, and if you cite the California case to them (see above), they might realize that there could be some money in it. And again, I'm not endorsing them, I'm just giving you their phone number.

      The call will take less than half an hour of your time, and is bound to give you some good information. If you do it, please let us know what they said.

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  70. TOLL ROAD PIRACY

    I recently received summonses to appear in court in Fairfax County on October 31st if we want to contest a HOT lane violation in 495. The 4 infractions were from October 2013, and were for a total of $2.50, and the administrative fees, costs and civil penalties add up to $2,490.50!!! When I asked the clerk (who was very nice, by the way) why my EZ Pass wasn't working, she said for some reason it was not read by Express Lanes, and I should call EZ Pass to figure that out. I believe she said that Express Lanes could not read our transponder, and that EZ Pass would not pay them for the tolls.

    The clerk told me that we should have received two summonses to pay the tolls, but I don't recall ever receiving any notification. Especially if they sent 2 notifications for each violation, I should have received 8 letters. I can see missing one, but 8?!? I highly doubt that is possible. I am confident I would not have ignored HOV violation notices, as my husband is a police officer for the city of Alexandria, and we both pride ourselves with excellent driving records.

    I confirmed that Express Lanes has the correct address, and the clerk said she is sending me proof that the summonses were sent. When I asked her if EZ Pass could go to bat for me if there was a problem with their equipment, she said that once the issue has gone to the court, the only way out was to pay the fine or appear in court. If we appear in court, in addition to the fines, they would charge an additional $460 (Fixed Traffic Infraction Fee), $121 (TIA Fee), $137 (Time to Pay), $228 (Courthouse Fee), $243 (Local Academy Training Fee!!!), for an additional $1,189 per infraction, bringing my total to $7,246 for $2.50 in missed tolls! I have attached the summonses for your reference. When I asked the clerk if they get a lot of complaints about their tactics, she responded "no".

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Hi KJ -- this sounds outrageous, and it makes me mad about this whole thing all over again. Obviously, if people receive and read the first notice, they will pay the $12.50 or whatever rather than face thousands of dollars in fines and court charges. I made a point of paying my $12.50 just so it wouldn't double to $25. So if a person doesn't pay the $12.50, that seems to me pretty good evidence that they never received (or at least never read) the notice. And yet, the system is designed to hammer people like that (i.e. people like you) the hardest -- completely disrupting their lives and extorting thousands of dollars just for the sake of what started out as $2.50. If you're mad about this, I strongly suggest you call a personal injury lawyer/class action lawyer ASAP.

      It sounds like it's too late to push off the hearing, but if you didn't ask, call the clerk back and ask. This is the first I've heard that going to the hearing itself ends up nearly tripling your liability. That makes this all the more insane, and if the choice is between paying $2500 now, and going to court and risk paying $7200, I really don't know how to advise you.

      But no matter what you should get as much information about your rights as possible before you make that decision.

      It really seems to me like this whole enforcement mechanism has gotten completely out of control, and that the system needs to be held accountable. Again, a class action could do that, if you find the right lawyer and get him or her interested.

      I gave phone numbers for the Cochran Firm and Saiontz and Kirk in a previous reply. Here's one for Spector Roseman Kodroff & Willis, P.C.: (202) 756-3600 (http://www.srkw-law.com/index.html). I'm not endorsing them, I'm just giving you the number. This won't be their normal kind of case; see above for ideas on how to get them interested (show them other examples from this blog, and show them the LA Times article about the California class action).

      That's not necessarily a substitute for a traffic lawyer who might be able to defend you on this particular charge; but perhaps if you call a class action firm you can get a recommendation for a traffic lawyer.

      It also sounds to me like you should be contacting EZ Pass and getting them to confirm that there is a problem with your equipment. If that's the case, then EZ Pass really should be able to advise you on how to handle the summonses (surely they have dealt with this issue before?!).

      You say you attached the summonses, but I'm not sure you can do that. If you post them on your own blog and give us a link, I can repost them here . . . .

      Good luck and please let us know what you learn, and what happens. Sorry you're going through this.

      Delete
  71. Hi everyone, last Monday, Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Fox 5, did a story on a man who was being assessed $17,000 for $36 in tolls (he also had a transponder, properly mounted, with auto replenishment). His story was so similar to mine that I contacted her with my story. Sadly, my story sounds like most of yours here. $26.30 in actual tolls, fines being assessed at $10,000 - with a court date, etc. I also had a properly mounted transponder and auto-replenishment on my EZ-Pass account. I had never had a problem in the decade that I'd used EZ-Pass prior to Transurban/495 Express Lanes handling the HOT Lanes.

    Anyway, my story will be on Fox 5 around 10:30 tonight. I really didn't want to be on the news, but I didn't want Transurban getting away with calling the Mr. Mischler's story (the man from last week's expose') "unique and rare". Reading this website, as well as many others is evidence that these are neither unique, nor rare incidents for the average consumer.

    Good luck to everyone. I'm 100% behind the idea of a class action suit.

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    1. Thanks for reporting that Elise (I would not have known about the Fox 5 program otherwise), and thanks for reaching out to Emily Miller and for letting her know that this issue is far from unique and rare. This issue needs a bit more exposure than we can give it here, so it's good to see the media getting fired up.

      And I'm glad to hear you're up for a class action suit -- do you have time or inclination to call a few class action lawyers and see what they say? Now might be the best time to do it, right as the issue is beginning to get media publicity (class action lawyers LOVE media publicity . . . ). I gave a few phone numbers for class action firms in replies to other posts.

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    2. See also my reply below to the anonymous poster who is facing bankruptcy over this. From Emily Miller's Oct. 13, 2014 segment (http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/26776372/man-gets-17000-e-zpass-fine-for-36-in-unpaid-express-lane-tolls) I learned that these fines go straight to Transurban, and not the Commonwealth, which makes me even madder. What kind of state government puts this kind of enforcement power against its own citizens into the hands of a for-profit, foreign corporation??

      Anyway, the fact that the money doesn't go to the state does not change my mind about a class action (although it changes the "Excessive Fines" analysis somewhat) -- in fact, it might make the case even stronger, given the highly unsympathetic defendant.

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    3. Elise - I am also one of the ones that is on the report (Lisa Comras) - please let me know if you want to go the federal class action route. I am talking with Ari Ashe from the Washington Post tomorrow evening. lmsdigiulio@gmail.com

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  72. Lets hope Ms. Miller reads this blog and we can begin action against Transurban. I am seriously contemplating bankruptcy, I'm looking at almost 50k in fines and devastated.

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  73. Bankruptcy for a few missed tolls. That's just outrageous, and it just proves that the "fines" here (which I still think must go to the State of Virginia), are "excessive," Constitutionally speaking. Your $50K, plus all the many tens of thousands of dollars that everyone else is in for should start looking like big bucks to a class action lawyer. Somebody -- maybe you -- just needs to start calling them!

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    1. I just watched Emily Miller's Oct. 13, 2014 segment on this travesty. Nice job Emily, and kudos to Joe Mischler for standing up to Transurban. Here's a link to that program: http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/26776372/man-gets-17000-e-zpass-fine-for-36-in-unpaid-express-lane-tolls

      While it's true that Joe had a pretty good case -- he was a regular customer and his transponder just wasn't being read due to a glitch -- Transurban's fees are still excessive even for people who might not have as good a story as Joe. The bottom line is that $50K and bankruptcy is not the sort of penalty a civilized society imposes on someone who misses a few tolls. A good lawyer should be able to tell that story.

      Note that in previous posts I've indicated that I believe the fines go to the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to Emily Miller, that's wrong -- the fines go straight to Transurban, which supposedly uses them to build even more enforcement mechanisms. The fact that we've potentially got a private defendant here adds an extra twist to the legal analysis, but I think the argument is still the same -- one makes the point that the fines, which are set by the Commonwealth of Virginia, are excessive and that the statute that allows them to be set that high is therefore unconstitutional. And as a result, Transurban has to disgorge their ill-gotten gains. At least that's how I hope it would play out.

      The Virginia legislature should feel deeply ashamed of themselves for enacting legislation that permits this kind of ultra-predatory conduct by a foreign corporation.

      Delete
  74. By the way - the Virginia code on my court summons - 33.1-56.2 (and 33.1-56.3) were JUST REPEALED 10/1/2014!

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    1. I had $14.20 in tolls and just received a judgment for $10,751.40. These cases should not have been heard in traffic court - we need to rally together and seriously find an attorney for a federal class action. Perhaps the court of appeals will see that these cases should all be overturned because Fairfax County Traffic Court and PRIVATE, FOR PROFIT transurban were in collusion. Something is wrong when you have 20,000 cases in less than a year. And if you have a judgment, they wont even talk to you now. SHAME ON THEM AND SHAME ON THE COMMONWEALTH of VA for allowing this to go on as long as it has. email me lmsdigiulio@gmail.com if you want to fight this.

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    2. Lisa-Marie -- very sorry to hear about your judgment. In any event, why don't you take the lead and call a class action lawyer? I'm sure if you find a good one, you'll have no problem getting other willing class members. I've given some numbers out above, all you need to do is call them. It doesn't cost anything to get a consultation. Be sure to mention that this has been in the news lately -- see links in main post to WTOP articles and to Fox 5 DC pieces.

      Also, maybe you can call Transurban and get them to apply their new policy to you. It sounds like if they'd come after you a few days later, they would have only asked for $2200.

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  75. the code wasnt appealed, that just indicates when the code expired and then was put in place again. gvt fiscal year 10/1-09/30 assume ffx and other counties, state, etc follow same. lisa i will join you, this is insane.

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    1. Anyone interested (SERIOUSLY) in a class action - email me. lmsdigiulio@gmail.com
      We will all need to sit down and hash this out. My issue is this: Why are these cases heard in traffic court? Transurban is a private, for profit company. These cases should be overturned because they were heard in the wrong court. Suing us in traffic court is like Visa suing us in traffic court because we paid for gas with our Visa card.

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    2. jw - email me your contact information. Myself and at least two others are in this until the very end. my email: lmsdigiulio@gmail.com

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  76. http://www.wtop.com/654/3731419/Transurban-changes-toll-violation-fine-policy

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    1. Thanks JW -- that's good news -- looks like Transurban is going to cap it's court charges against first time offenders at $2200. As noted in the main post (which I just updated thanks to JW), I'm not sure exactly what this means, but if you're sitting on a bunch of fines, you should call Transurban and ask how their new policy applies to you.

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  77. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  78. Just got nailed myself. Haven't been in that area in 15 years, and their new road system is a nightmare if you are from out of state. Using GPS to navigate to head back north. Said to take this road, and now I am getting "fined" for doing so. When you get to the dispute section, they've already got it laid out so you CAN'T win. What the hell is an Australian company doing imposing tolls on American highways in the first place? Unknowingly, I had to make a second trip, again following the GPS, so I will get 'screwed' again! Must really need all that extra money to build more of these "traps"!!!

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  79. All:

    We need to stop this. I have a judgment now, my license will be suspended because I refuse to pay this amount of $. The "civil penalties" - those are all for Fairfax County.
    I am seriously looking for people that are seriously interested in being actively involved in a federal class action lawsuit - against Transurban (violation of the 8th amendment or violation of the fair debt collections act...something). If you have a friend or co-worker that is an attorney and is willing to help - please, send him/her my way.
    IF you are interested, email me: lmsdigiulio@gmail.com

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    1. It would be great if someone has a friend who is the right kind of lawyer, but that might be a long shot. I continue to advise any and all of you to call one of the class action law firms whose numbers I've given above and just see what they say. The information they will give you is free (they give free consultations), and if you get it and post it here -- even if they say no -- it will help everyone out!

      But if that doesn't work, a lawyer friend with time on his/her hands really could jumpstart a career for themselves on this one!

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  80. i contacted the cochran firm. in no way are they interested, even after i highlighted all the media attention this was creating. they just wished me good luck.

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    1. Ok, thanks checking with them and for letting us know. I suppose this could be out of their comfort zone; this isn't their routine cut-and-paste personal injury case.

      Maybe Lisa-Marie is right; we need to find someone who can make a personal mission out of this. Still, I'd just keep on calling lawyers until I found someone who either (1) was able to convince me that a class action doesn't make sense, or (2) was willing to take the case.

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  81. I just read this and would like to make sure if it related to the administrative fees:
    Now, Transurban will not fine you any more than the actual tolls if you pay within 60 days. Previously, you had to pay an additional $12.50 to $25 per trip in addition to the missed tolls.
    Link
    http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/27054447/fox-5-investigation-forces-changes-to-massive-e-zpass-fines-on-495-express-lanes

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    1. That's definitely good news going forward -- those outrageous administrative fees are what set me off in the first place.

      It might also be good for a class action lawsuit at least as to these administrative fees -- a good lawyer could argue that this amounts to an admission by Transurban that the $12.50 fee was unreasonable and unjustified. If that's the case, maybe the court would order Transurban to disgorge all of those adminstrative fees or at least the amount by which they exceed actual expenses), and the lawyer would collect his 1/3 of the pot . . . .

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    2. Today I contacted the 495 express lane 1-855-495-XPRS, the customer service person said they do not have the information about drivers do not have to pay administrative fees going forward and the fee still apply. I am not sure how or where to call to confirm about the above statement.

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    3. Oh, I see what happened. In her October 27 piece, Emily Miller wrote that:

      "Now, Transurban will not fine you any more than the actual tolls if you pay within 60 days. Previously, you had to pay an additional $12.50 to $25 per trip in addition to the missed tolls."

      That sounds like it applies to everybody, but apparently it only applies if you are an EZ Pass customer. Here's what the Oct, 27, 2014 policy change says:

      "No fees for E-ZPass customers – Customers will get a toll invoice if they have insufficient funds in their E-ZPass account, fail to link their license plate to their account or if they incorrectly mount their E-ZPass device. If E-ZPass customers contact the 495 Express Lanes within 60 days of their first trip, we will waive all fees when they provide evidence they have resolved these account issues with E-ZPass, and pay their tolls."

      Here's a link to the full policy change:

      https://www.495expresslanes.com/feature/1189.

      So if you are an EZ Pass Customer, then you can cite this policy. If not, you might be out of luck.

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  82. This only applies to the first trip as a new E-Z pass customers.
    If you are not a new E-Z pass customers you still have to pay actual tools and administrative fees.

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  83. Thank you PriceFixer for reposting my request. My honest hope is that people are serious about going forward with a class action suit. Someone has to put a stop to this - Transurban's "First Time Forgiveness" isn't the answer - it is a smoke screen.

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    1. Have you thought about taking your story to the Washington Post? Most people who are mad about the issue and start googling it end up here, but the Washington Post would get you a lot more exposure, and might turn up additional "victims" of this scam. Emily Miller's Fox 5 reporting was a good start, but I think the Washington Post would get you a much bigger audience.

      And remember, the scam is not just the outrageous multiplier when it comes to judgment -- the $12.50 "administration fee" itself is a huge scam and probably a big moneymaker for these people. "Little" fees like that, when multiplied across a lot of victims, can help make a class action worth a lawyer's while.

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  84. My debit card had unauthorized charges on it in June 2014 so the bank canceled it. When a new card was issued, I forgot to update my EZ pass info so I had about 7 tolls that weren't paid. This quickly added up with the admin fees and I just couldn't afford to pay it. In October, the collection agency sent me an invoice for a little over $300. On October 31, I mailed them a check for $182 (the amount of the original tolls plus some of the fees). They cashed my check. Today I went online to confirm that they had applied this amount to the outstanding amount, and not only do I not see a credit for the $182 anywhere, but they now say the total is over $500. I know this amount is nothing compared to most of the people that have posted, but it's a huge amount to me and just not something I can pay. It was all I could do to get the $182 together. Does anyone know how long it takes between the letter from the collection agency and the filing of a court case? I want to try to pay this off and put it behind me before it ever gets to the court stage but I have to pay it off gradually. Also, do you know if the fees continue to mount? Will that $500 (minus what I've already paid) continue to grow? So frustrating.

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    1. Sorry to hear about this. Hundreds of dollars for a few inadvertently missed tolls is still outrageous and immoral. You might want to join Lisa-Marie's class action (see above) -- if Transurban is behaving this way systematically (i.e. failing to give credit for payments made), then maybe there's a possibility of punitive damages.

      It also seems to me that you might have a good case that you've paid them off, under Virginia's "accord and satisfaction" statute, Va Code § 8.3A-311 (https://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.3A-311). This may depend on the exact facts of your case -- you should have made it clear that you offered the $182 as full satisfaction of their claim (e.g. by writing "payment in full" on the check), and you also need to be sure they didn't protect themselves by putting something on the notice saying that settlement offers are to go to a designated person (§ 8.3A-311(c)).

      A good discussion of accord and satisfaction law is here: http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2011/04/payment-in-full-check-powerful-legal.html

      I drafted a payment in full letter here that could be modified for similar situations here:

      http://pricefixer.blogspot.com/2013/08/i495-admin-fee-scam-part-ii.html

      From your account, it sounds like maybe the collections agency cashed your check and didn't tell Transurban. If you're not inclined to join the class action (which shouldn't cost you anything), and are really willing to pay those fees, then you should call Transurban and explain everything to them. In my opinion, they should cancel any debt and further attempts at collection, and give you an apology as well. If they don't, then maybe you'll think about joining the class action. Let us know what happens in any event.

      Transurban's phone no. is: 855-495-9777.

      You could also try emailing them explaining the situation here: CustomerCare@ExpressLanes.com. If you get a dismissive response, post it here and maybe Lisa-Marie's lawyer will be able to use it.

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    2. Thank you for helping me out - I am still in the process of getting folks that are interested in either joining the 10 of us for our class action or hearing from people that have a similar scam situation with Transurban. Reminder - we are only going after Transurban (and potentially Fairfax County Court)

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    3. I'm glad to help. I don't think you can sue a court, but depending on what you learn on exactly what happens to the money that goes to Transurban, you might be able to sue the Commonwealth of Virginia. In any event, the lawsuit should implicate the constitutionality of the Virginia Code provisions that allow Transurban to assess, and cause the courts to enforce, these punitive charges. That might be reason enough to add the Commonwealth as a defendant.

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    4. At this point, I figure it is something like a conspiracy, collusion, etc...the wayTransurban is ALLOWED to treat citizens of the Commonwealth, is just absurd, abuse of power, etc...
      If you see anyone in your posts here, and they are interested, send them my way. We are putting together a time when all of us can meet, talk to a reporter with WTOP who has decided he will follow this closely and report on our progress. I tried social media (facebook, really) but didn't seem to gain any noticeable traction.

      Lisa

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    5. I'll keep recommending that people contact you. It sure would be nice to see the law actually working for the people in a case like this!

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    6. Lisa -- if you look at the comment below, you'll see that coolmjp@yahoo.com is interested in joining your class action.

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  85. Just got my ticket. Accidentally got on Saturday morning from the left exit off of 66 (following my stupid GPS). I got off the next exit, on Gallows and thought they would waive it because obviously there was no need for me to use the lanes for one exit early on a Saturday. I will dispute but it doesn't look promising from reading other's experiences. I would like to join the class action. coolmjp@yahoo.com.

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    1. What you did is EXACTLY what I did -- took the wrong turn on 66, realized the mistake, and got off at Gallows, and then hoped they would understand that there would be NO REASON IN THE WORLD for me to want to be on their stupid express lane at a time of day when traffic was always completely clear in my direction of travel. But of course, they didn't. I assume you'll get off with just paying their $12.50 admin fee, but I think the class action could benefit by having people with that simple story, i.e. having to pay $12.50 for a simple mistake like that. Assuming that's happened to a few thousand people (and I'm sure it has; the signage is not good), then that's been a real -- and to my mind completely inappropriate -- profit center for Transurban. That's money they should be paying back.

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  86. Hi guys, I got 3 court summons total $1330. I called the customer service center for a pre-court settlement and they told me its going to be $860! It is still a lot of money for a college student. Should I go to the court or take the settlement that they gave me? It is so frustrated becuase Im no longer live in DC area anymore

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    1. Hi Mio -- It sounds like you're getting hit with more than $400 per violation, which is outrageous, but they've been getting away with it. I can't really advise you -- sometimes it's best to just pay and move on. At least you're not in the $50,000 range, like some people.

      But I suggest you first email Lisa-Marie Comras (lmsdigiulio@gmail.com) and see what she thinks. She was trying to get a class action together a little while ago, but we haven't heard from her lately. Maybe she's got a lawyer by now, and maybe they have some ideas. Let us know what you find out, and what you decide to do!

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    2. Hey everyone - I am still here! I have met with one attorney and have a meeting with another next week. There are currently 15 of us that are going in on our class action.

      We cannot let this continue.

      Anyone interested - email me - and thank you to The Price Fixer for all of your help! :)

      Lisa

      lmsdigiulio@gmail.com

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  87. I am renewing my search to find folks interested in joining me and 15 others in a federal class action lawsuit. We HAVE to stop Transurban, Fluor, 495 Express Lanes AND the commonwealth of VA. This "First Time Forgiveness" policy is being implemented sporadically - they aren't following the "rules" they created. It is only going to get worse now that the 95 corridor lanes are open.
    I had $14.20 in tolls (on a fully funded, properly mounted EZPass) that is now a $10,751.40 JUDGMENT and I will lose my license because I REFUSE to pay.

    IF you are 100% interested, email me at lmsdigiulio@gmail.com - give me general overview details on your experience.

    Lets put an end to this.

    Lisa Comras

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    1. I just added a mention of the class action and your email address to the very front of the original post -- the post is still getting a few dozen hits every week, maybe this will help get people's attention and get them over to you.

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  88. $12.50 admin fee per toll and I doubt Transurban even pays their employees $12.50 per hour. This is a scheme.

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    1. If you're mad about it, join the class action. It wouldn't surprise me if the real money for Transurban was in these predatory admin fees -- people pay them without putting up a fight, because it's just not worth it. But the "class" of people who have been ripped off this way by Transurban is probably in the tens or hundreds of thousands, which means hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of potential recovery for the class action.

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  89. I began a new job in McLean April, 2013. I had not used the new Hot Lanes up to the point, and had not been on the Dulles Toll Road for some time. As it turned out my EZ-Pass Credit Card update information needed to be updated. I had started using the HOT Lanes on some occasions to drive to the Fairfax area for lunch. Within about two weeks, I used the Dulles Toll Road and was given indication that I did not have funds on my EZ-Pass, which I was then able to determine was due to a change of my credit card number on file, which had not been updated. So I fixed this, and asked about the HOT Lanes. They gave me the 495 Express Lanes number. When I spoke to 495 Express I was told there were no violations showing at that time but that I would be mailed a letter with the fees if there was a violation, no mention of "this could be hundreds or thousands of dollars." Fast Forward: about a year and a half later, a Deputy with the court in PG County where I live knocks on my door and serves me a notice from Fairfax County that Transurban is taking Civil action against me: four violations that occurred on two consecutive days, to drive one or two exits on the hot lane to and from lunch - so this is like two 35 cent tolls and a two that were maybe a couple of dollars. This was about a grand total of $3-$5 in tolls for two trips (to and from) on two days. The lawsuit was alleging that a letter had been sent requesting the tolls plus at least $100 per trip on the Hot Lane (so four of these, two to location and then back to work later). But NOW, because they had to take Civil Action for the $400+ letter I never received that was sent to collect their $3-$5 in tolls, I was being fined in the escalating civil cycle others have mentioned, which hits $1000 on the fourth one (I think it went something like $100, $250, $500 and then $1000), with the $400 still added on, totalling somewhere around $2200 to collect $3-$5 in tolls. I called the 495 Express toll number and was given an amount of around $1200 to pay them directly and avoid court. I was working a long commute at a different location now driving Bowie to Aberdeen (60-70 miles one way) and a bit overwhelmed. Although it was a crunch, I dug into some savings and paid the $1200 to get them off my back, which still irritates me, and always will. There's no other way to say this but that it is a Government-sponsored criminal conspiracy.

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    1. Let me also make some additional points:

      1. There is absolutely nothing in the Hot Lanes to indicate whether the EZ-Pass was accepted or rejected. A toll booth flashes red and at least gives you a chance to call right away and right it or if you are going past an EZ Pass where an operator sits even stop in time and pay in cash instead. At the very least, you should no immediately if your EZ Pass was accepted or kicked back.
      2. Worse yet, this is layered into their system since EZ Pass doesn't administer the system, even once it registers your EZ Pass, it then has to go hit EZ Pass to find out at some apparently later whether the funds are there. Ok, so WHY? This is 2015, we certainly have the technology for a direct connection. Or develop your own passes or let EZ Pass control the flow of monitoring and gathering the funds and then transfer to the owning company. But wait... if they do it that way they can't justify the criminal loan shark (ok I'm being hard on loan sharks here) fees they charge.
      3. Then why is a letter that ups a collection of a toll of possibly only 35 cents immediately hit with at least $12 and apparently another $100 in administrative fees pretty quickly thereafter not mailed via certified USPS or FedEx requiring a signature (they've already collected more than enough money to pay for that)? Oh wait, but then that might stop it in the hundreds. If we just mail it and hope it gets lost or overlooked, better chance of upping those fees into the thousands of dollars.

      In summation, it is clear by the design of the system in comparison to the technology of 2015, this has been designed to maximize the likelihood that a small error will be disproportionately escalated to a level that allows Transurban to steal an exhorbitant amount of an individuals money and profit from this obviously legally sanctioned criminal enterprise.

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    2. Wow. Thanks very much for that detailed writeup. You make a very convincing case that this is essentially their business model: They have gotten themselves in a position where you owe them 35 cents without knowing it, and then they are somehow able to legally multiply that liability by a factor of about 10,000, plus police involvement, with the help and cooperation of the state government. Really sickening, and I'm sorry for your $1200 loss. That's the other problem -- most of us are simply too busy with the rest of our lives to fight this, and they get away with it.

      As I've suggested to others, you should contact Lisa Marie Comras (lmsdigiulio@gmail.com) to see if she is still pursuing a class action. The comments here on this issue have tailed off, so maybe Transurban has cleaned up its act somewhat (maybe also thanks to Emily Miller's exposes), but Transurban is still sitting on piles and piles of money that they have essentially stolen from hardworking citizens like you.

      It's all just a disgusting example of how crony capitalism and political corruption ends up screwing over the people.

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  90. I commute daily from Stafford to the Pentagon. Groundhog Day… I pick up slugs off of Rte 610, jump on the first Express Lanes entrance (between Stafford and Quantico) and exit to drop my slugs at the Pentagon; no change to the routine, the EZ Pass Flex setting remains in the HOV On position, the EZPass Flex stays in the same mounting position (appropriate location on the windshield). Additionally my EZPass account has never dropped below $15 (on very rare occasions I’ve driven the vehicle back to Ohio via the PA turnpike).

    This month I received two invoices from the Express Lanes billing me for 3 tolls that they showed occurred during my morning commute (oddly enough with different entry/exit points) totaling $63.70 ($37 in administration fee’s – second invoice).

    I checked my EZPass account, which showed I used the Express Lanes on the dates of the invoiced tolls. The EZPass account also showed that I incurred a $0.00 toll for all 3 days (driving HOV). Additionally my account had a balance that would have covered the tolls if my EZPass Flex were to have some ended up in the wrong switch position (though I have no idea how that could happen). Finally, the EZPass account showed that I commuted on the days just prior and after the invoiced toll dates – with no tolls charged (EZPass flex was clearly set to HOV the day before and after each invoiced toll).

    I submit an online dispute as soon as I received the two invoices (they were both delivered on the same day). I explained the situation as clearly and concisely as possible (comments are limited to 800 characters…) About a day later, I received an E-mail from the Express Lanes “Team” notifying me that they would waive the administrative fee as part of their “first time forgiveness” program – but they still attempted to charge me for the tolls. Thanks, now pay the tolls that you don’t really owe…

    I’ve submit a second online dispute against the tolls – once again explaining that it would appear that the toll was the result of a malfunction of their transponder system and not due in any part to anything under my control.

    Waiting to see their reply.

    Pretty disgusted at this point – at the time I’ve put into looking into the situation, at the idea of paying a toll for using the HOV and the potential that I may deal with another bogus invoice in the future…

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    1. Thanks for sharing this. There hasn't been much activity on this post lately, so i've started to assume that EZ pass has been getting better. But your story shows that they are still geared toward ripping off their honest customers, and making things very inconvenient for them to get a fair shake. It sounds like their computers and their employees are all "programmed" to assume that the customer is wrong, even when, as in your case, the customer is dead right.

      It's a good thing you're dealing with it now though -- if you let it slide, you can bet that before too long you'd get an invitation to come to court and fight against thousands of dollars in fines, like everybody else.

      I think the problem is that their technology just isn't nearly as good as they think it is. As another example, the transponder on my daughter's car now works only about 50% of the time, as she figured out on a recent trip up to New York. Although she could tell that it didn't register in the EZ pass lane, there was nothing she could do about it once she had chosen that lane. So she collected 6 or 7 fines from three different states for that one trip, and they've been coming in the mail, one at a time, over a period of more than a month. New Jersey sends a nasty letter for each one of them, saying that we owe the $2, plus a $50 fee. Luckily, when you go online, you learn that the $50 fee falls away if you can prove that you actually had a transponder. But it's still a major pain, and waste of time to have to deal with it. And the threat of a $50 fine for a $2 toll is pretty outrageous (Maryland, by contrast, just wants the toll money)..

      Anyway, if you have time, please send another post letting us know what their reply was on your second online dispute.

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  91. No resolution yet...

    I received another email response from the Capital Express Lanes following my second dispute, requesting I give their customer services a call.

    I called, explained the situation (charged tolls when I was clearly driving HOV-3) and was told that I needed to pay the tolls.

    I asked to speak to a supervisor and again explained the circumstances. Again, I was told point blank, that I needed to pay the tolls. I asked what was the basis for their denial of my dispute - and was told that they weren't denying it - but I still needed to pay the toll. Clearly the supervisor's sole job is to do nothing more than compound your frustration with their bogus dispute process...

    I've submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, but I don't think it will help.

    I've also submit a 3rd dispute - which I'm sure I will receive another generic reply...

    I'm nearing the due date for the invoices and I'm reaching the point where they are forcing this & clearly want this to go - to collections, tacking on additional fees and pushing to get me to cave in and pay the $22 in bogus tolls.

    Capital Beltway Express is very proficient with their scams...

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  92. I recently entered the toll lanes without my transponder (early morning, different car, on lack-of-coffee auto-pilot), and almost immediately after I got on the toll lanes, I knew I made a mistake. As soon as I got to work, I went to the 95Express Lanes website to see if they had my trip information by my license plate so I could pay my toll. Well, the information was not there. Matter of fact, I looked every day for the next two weeks, and their system never showed me or my vehicle as having used the toll lanes that day. Three weeks later, I receive an invoice in the mail with my car tag photo, the toll charge and an administrative fee of $12.50 tacked on for good measure. I am very confused by all of this. Their website states that if you missed a toll, your trip information should be available online within 48 hours, and that you have 5 days to pay your toll without a penalty being assessed. If your information is never made available, and if you call in to their call center and they don't even have your trip information, how are you supposed to pay? To solve this problem, the website says that you can leave your credit card information with them along with your trip information and they will process the payment for you as soon as the trip information becomes available, but if even the representatives don't have the information, that option is impossible. Not only that, but I am very uncomfortable leaving my credit card information with a company that cannot even verify how much they will charge me. I know of others who have come across this, as well. Is the toll company purposely withholding this information from the accidental users until past the five-day deadline as a way of getting additional money in the form of "administrative fees"?

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    1. I started this post based on a similar experience -- I got on the EZ Pass by accident, and got right off, and couldn't figure out what to do, and then eventually got their notice with the 35 cent (or whatever) toll plus the $12.50 admin fee. It would not surprise me if (as you suggest) the company is intentionally making it hard for people to figure out how to pay. These admin fees are a big money maker for them, and based on your comment, it sounds like even people who know enough to go to the EZ Pass site (I didn't know that much) get screwed. Someone should file a Freedom of Information Act Request and get some information from the State of Virginia on just how much these Australian skimmers are making off of admin fees.

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    2. I started this post based on a similar experience -- I got on the EZ Pass by accident, and got right off, and couldn't figure out what to do, and then eventually got their notice with the 35 cent (or whatever) toll plus the $12.50 admin fee. It would not surprise me if (as you suggest) the company is intentionally making it hard for people to figure out how to pay. These admin fees are a big money maker for them, and based on your comment, it sounds like even people who know enough to go to the EZ Pass site (I didn't know that much) get screwed. Someone should file a Freedom of Information Act Request and get some information from the State of Virginia on just how much these Australian skimmers are making off of admin fees.

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    3. Same exact thing happened to me. Somehow wound up on the Express lane off Gordon Blvd SR 123 after I tried to get back on after getting gas.

      I went to the website when I went home and entered my vehicle information and my email and they're supposed to send you a notice. Never received anything. It's a huge scam.

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  93. Per haps we're fighting the wrong war. By Virginia State Law Article 33.2-503 they can charge you any administrative fee they want provided it's below $100. So by law, they're doing nothing wrong. The problem is, it's still highly unethical for them to do this to commuters. As all of you have said, sometimes we do this by mistake. I think that article needs an amendment to force these private companies to not have an administrative fee and in fact, make it easier for people who make mistakes to pay the fee as soon as possible. For multiple infractions by a person with possibly malicious intent, take them to court and put whatever fees for lawyers and attorneys on those people.

    It's really the law that the state has that's at fault. If that law was more stringent about the services these companies provide, I think it would pressurize these private companies to work harder to provide a better service. Otherwise, why would they?

    Vivek

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  94. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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