Sat, Jan 11, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Contract with toll firm ‘can be terminated’

By Shelley Shan and Chris Wang

Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday that the government could terminate its contract with the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (遠東電子收費, FETC) if the company fails to rectify the technical errors in the freeway electronic toll collection (ETC) system.

Earlier this week, Yeh said the contractor must offer additional compensation to freeway drivers for any erroneous transaction appearing in their ETC accounts, as well as refund the charge.

In response to Yeh’s request, the company first said its contract with the government did not include such a provision. However, it said in a statement on Thursday night that it would not only correct the error, but would round up the erroneous charges and compensate affected drivers by doubling the amount. The company added that the compensation plan would only be valid during the first year of the freeway “pay as you go” system.

While the company appeared to be willing to comply with the ministry’s demand, Yeh said the bottom line should be that the ETC system should be problem-free.

“It does not matter if the company is willing to offer compensation that is five times or 10 times the questionable charge. This is only a means to an end,” he said.

“I believe that FETC would take care to protect its corporate image and reputation. If the ETC system continues to generate errors this year, which would be unbelievable, we would consider terminating the contract with the company and taking other possible actions.”

The company has been fined before by the National Freeway Bureau for failing to reach the usage rate of the ETC system stated in the contract.

However, the company disagreed with the bureau’s interpretation of the contract’s terms and filed an administrative lawsuit to avoid paying those penalties.

Yeh said yesterday that the nation is ruled by law and the company has the right to settle the dispute through the legal system. However, he added that the ministry would handle the issues it had with the company based on the contract and the law.

“We would defend public interests and will not favor the contractor,” he said.

FETC added in a statement yesterday that the company would consider setting up a compensation mechanism for freeway drivers within the concession period stated in the contract.

“It was inevitable that the system would encounter some problems at the initial stage of operation. We will evaluate the compensation package offered this year and how well it was received by freeway drivers before we consider setting up a compensation mechanism,” the company said.

In related news, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said separately yesterday that a NT$600 million (US$20 million) cloud system project that would upload real-time traffic information on major roads to the Internet could violate privacy and should be dropped.

If established, the “traffic information cloud project” of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications would obtain drivers’ traffic information via multiple channels, such as mobile phones, taxi operators, navigation operators and the electronic toll collection system, and upload them to the system, Kuan said.

“By collecting the geographical location of millions of drivers on national highways and major roads in all cities and counties, the cloud system would become an ‘information monster’ that violates the basic human right of privacy,” she said.

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