SunPass fee/penalty suspension extended to June 1

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 4/3/2019

Problems for SunPass contractor Conduent State and Local Solutions continue to pile on.

On March 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the suspension of fees and penalties for toll customers will be extended until June.

According to a Florida Department of Transportation news release, the governor ordered the extended suspension of fees and penalties for both SunPass and Toll-By-Plate customers until June 1.

“Since I’ve been governor, I’ve heard the concerns from citizens and customers of SunPass and the hardships they’ve been facing related to their delayed bills and billing errors by the contractor, Conduent,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This is a technology issue for Conduent, but it’s a customer service issue for citizens. I’ve been working closely with the new FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault to ensure customers are protected and receive a premium level of service.”

Final reminders have been sent to Toll-By-Plate customers, which include transactions that occurred through the end of last year.

Thibault also announced that several “personnel changes” have been made related to SunPass problems. Among those changes was replacing the director of toll systems.

Thibault and the department have continued to withhold payments to Conduent over the SunPass contract since the company’s technological error in June 2018 that caused a variety of billing issues for customers. To date, FDOT fined Conduent $4.6 million so far for the botched rollout of the new SunPass system.

“We are committed to fixing the issues related to Conduent’s performance and we will continue to hold them accountable,” Thibault said in a statement.

Centralized Customer Service System malfunction

FDOT announced last July that it was withholding payments to SunPass contractor Conduent State and Local Solutions until all of the problems with its Centralized Customer Service System are fixed. On June 28, about 90 million transactions were unprocessed.

On June 28, then-FDOT Secretary Mike Dew sent a letter to Dave Amoriell, president of Florham Park, N.J.-based Conduent, the contractor hired to implement the customer service system in an agreement signed in November 2015. Dew requested that Conduent provide adequate assurances within 10 days of the letter that the problems will be fixed.

Conduent provided assurances to FDOT in a July 10 letter. It was not enough. In a July 16 letter, FDOT informed Conduent that its assurances were not deemed adequate under a contract provision.

According to FDOT’s letter, Conduent must demonstrate “the consistent ability to timely and accurately process current transactions, eliminate the backlog, and provide a full financial reconciliation for each day’s activity that the department can rely upon to transfer revenues to participating and external agencies.”

Government reaction

Shortly after FDOT’s announcement, a pair of U.S. Senators urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the contractor providing electronic tolling solutions in multiple states for problems involving the company’s administration and maintenance of electronic tolling system.

On July 30, Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., sent a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, requesting the agency take action against Conduent for violating the Federal Trade Commission Act. The act prohibits unfair practices that causes substantial harm to consumers that cannot be reasonably avoided.

In the letter, the senators claim that Conduent has financially harmed the driving public with their contracts allowing it to administer and maintain electronic tolling systems with several state departments of transportation. Conduent is accused of billing consumers with wrong toll charges, late fee and penalties.

Motorists in California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire and Texas have experienced problems with Conduent’s customer service and administration of toll systems, the letter states.

Last August, at least one state lawmaker wanted former FDOT Sec. Mike Dew out.

Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, sent a letter to then-Gov. Rick Scott requesting the removal of Dew. Jacobs’ letter to the governor came after three previous letters to Dew went unanswered.

According to Jacobs’ letter, the Broward County lawmaker sent Dew a letter on July 17 with “a long series of questions and request for information” regarding the SunPass contract with Conduent. Jacobs sent two follow-up letters on July 24 and Aug. 1. Three weeks after the original letter to Dew, Jacobs has yet to receive a response.

“Your hand-picked leader to oversee our state’s transportation department is willfully acting in subordination of these requests,” Jacobs wrote in the letter to Scott. “The disrespect this secretary has shown is beyond reproach.”

Since then, both the governor and the FDOT secretary have been replaced. DeSantis won the governorship during last year’s midterm election, replacing term-limited Rick Scott. Shortly after, Mike Dew sent in his resignation letter, announcing he was joining DeSantis’s transition team.

 

 

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