Toll payers to get $1.4 million refund in California

| 11/3/2009

Toll payers in California will get $1.4 million returned to them as part of a settlement reached in a lawsuit against the Orange County Transportation Authority and Transportation Corridor Agency.

The toll agencies have also agreed to waive a total of $41 million in “unpaid penalties” as part of a settlement reached in October.

Toll payers filed the first of three lawsuits in 2007, claiming that the agencies were assessing excessive penalties for toll violations to those who had problems with their FasTrak accounts. Violations varied from failure to pay tolls to expired credit or debit cards.

Sixteen motorists filed the first lawsuit after being fined a total of $334,000 for failing to pay about $2,500 in tolls.

The agencies contended that they were within the boundaries of California law for levying fines against those who violated the terms of their FasTrak contracts.

The courts consolidated the lawsuits into case and awarded class-action status to the plaintiffs. Mediation and other proceedings finally led to the settlement.

As a result, the toll agencies have agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million in restitution to eligible toll payers who were assessed more than $1,000 in tolls and penalties between Jan. 1, 2003 and Oct. 5, 2009 on TCA toll roads and between May 31, 2003 and Oct. 5, 2009 for OCTA roads.

The OCTA agreed to waive $32 million in uncollected fines and penalties, while the TCA waived about $9 million.

The settlement also alters the violations process and lowers maximum penalties.

The settlement requires the agencies to notify FasTrak users within 10 days of when a violation occurs and not 21 days as was their previous policy. That allows roadway users to pay their tolls and fines in a shorter time frame to avoid racking up additional fines.

Toll agencies are now required to “consider good faith and/or innocent mistakes as well as a single incident giving rise to numerous penalties as a possible basis to waive penalties associated with one or more violations,” according to the settlement document. Click here to read more.

Spokespersons for the plaintiffs and the toll agencies said they were prohibited from talking about the case beyond the facts outlined in the settlement.

– By David Tanner, staff writer