Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co must compensate freeway drivers for any error in their electronic toll fee accounts, on top of rectifying the error, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday, adding that the ministry could also penalize the company based on its build-operate-transfer contract with the government.
Yeh was lambasted by lawmakers yesterday at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee over a series of problems with “eTag,” the freeway toll tag drivers have to use to access the electronic toll collection (ETC) system, following the launch of a freeway “pay as you go” policy earlier this month.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said she received a complaint from a driver who said that he was traveling south to Yuanshan (圓山) at 5:15am one day. He paid the toll fees for the southbound lanes using his eTag. However, his ETC account showed that the toll fees for the northbound lanes to Yuanshan were deducted from his account four minutes after he had paid the correct fees.
“Do you think drivers are Batman who can be in two different places within such a short period of time?” Yeh Yi-jin said.
She said some drivers found after checking their records that they had been charged twice for the same freeway trip.
She added that some people complained that when they tried to check their balance through the contractor’s customer service line, the line remained busy even after they spent almost an hour trying to get through.
DPP Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that problems continued to emerge ever since the new freeway toll fee policy took effect. He added that hackers were able to hack into the ETC system’s mobile phone application, which drivers can use to check their toll fee account, and froze the application.
Lee also said that some drivers paid NT$2,000 into their accounts, but when they checked their account balances, the balances had been changed to zero.
Given all these issues, Lee proposed that the operation of the ETC system be suspended and that the bureau resume operations only after all the system glitches have been addressed. In the meantime, the contractor has to cover the loss in toll fees during this period.
In response, Yeh Kuang-shih said it was unnecessary to shut the system down for a comprehensive examination.
“We will not allow things like charging the same freeway trip to happen,” he said. “If it happens again, the contractor must offer additional compensation to the freeway drivers, not just refund the extra charge.”
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that although the company said that no personal information of eTag users was leaked to any third party in the hacking incident, the ministry should not believe everything the company tells it.
She showed that the hacker not only managed to paralyze the application, but also posted online how they obtained information such as the passwords used by the system’s administrator.
“There is only one word for this kind of act, and that is ‘scary,’” Kuan said.
Yeh Kuang-shih said that Minister-without-Portfolio Simon Chang (張善政) would assist the ministry in examining the system for information security issues, adding that the ministry would report the results to the committee within a week.