Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) yesterday apologized over technical errors that have surfaced in the freeway electronic toll collection (ETC) system, adding that freeway drivers can always uninstall the “eTags” if they wish to do so.
Hsu made the statement in Shanghai at the unveiling of a new ship being delivered to the group’s U-Ming Marine Transport Corp (裕民航運), after being asked to comment on a series of technical errors encountered by drivers when they use eTags after the government launched its freeway “pay as you go” policy earlier this month.
During the interview, Hsu apologized four times for the errors.
“We should be proud and glad that we can use eTags to access the freeways, making Taiwan the first nation in the world that charges drivers by the distance traveled on all freeways. It was inevitable that there would be problems at the beginning, and I apologize for them because they should not happen. However, the percentage of errors was really small, and we should not spend all this time making a big deal about it,” Hsu said. “This is a free world. You can always uninstall [eTags] if you feel like it. However, how can you access the freeways after you uninstall it?”
Although Hsu promised to work hard to address the errors, he said that he requested the public to show some compassion for him.
Hsu’s comments did not seem likely to help assuage the anger of the public, who have been dissatisfied with the way Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC, 遠東電子收費), a subsidiary of Far Eastern Group, handled the technical errors.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Jonathan Chen (陳純敬) said that the ministry cannot accept Hsu’s “emotional statement,” adding that it would seek to communicate with him.
“We can understand that he [Hsu] is under a lot of stress lately, but the ‘pay-as-you-go’ toll collection system remains a public service, even if it is now administered by a government contractor. As a service provider, Hsu cannot tell people to uninstall eTags if they find it a bad system,” Chen said. “Our position is that we are doing the best we can to provide an accurate and convenient service. People can choose if they want to install eTags or not.”
Netizens said Hsu is probably the only person in the world who does not know that one can still access the freeway without eTags. However, they were more annoyed by Hsu’s attitude.
“He finally said that one can uninstall the tag if he feels like it. Well, just you wait,” a woman who identified herself as “Luo Ping” said. “He even has the nerve to ask us to show some compassion for him. So what if he apologized four times? He should stop pretending with those insincere apologies.”
“If we need to kowtow [to Far Eastern] to have our eTags installed, we will show you [Far Eastern] how proud we are to remove and shred the eTags,” a netizen surnamed Wang (王) said.
Media reported that more than 10,000 drivers have asked to cancel their ETC accounts.
In response, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that ministry statistics showed that more people were installing eTags than canceling them. He said he hoped that people’s anger at the system would quickly dissipate and that the mass cancelation of the toll tags was only a temporary phenomenon.
“The ETC system is the nation’s policy. We hope that Far Eastern Toll Collection Co can gain people’s trust with the service it provides,” Yeh said.
National Freeway Bureau chief engineer Hsu Cheng-chang (許鉦漳) said that an average of 8,000 cars apply to have eTags installed each day, adding that changes in the eTag accounts happen as a result of the change of vehicles, not because of cancelations.
Hsu Cheng-chang said that it is normal for FETC to process 1,000 applications for changes in eTag accounts every day, because about 300,000 new vehicles are registered in the nation each year.
FETC issued a statement saying that the company would absolutely respect every user’s decision and listen to what the user has to say. It also promised to win back the hearts of the users with quality service.