The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday urged Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) not to break his promise to motorists to extend the 10 percent discount on toll fees to non-eTag users this month.
“Yeh gave his word in October last year that non-eTag users can also begin to enjoy the 10 percent eTag discount on toll fees starting this month, as long as they pay all the fees they owe in full within three days. I am afraid that check has officially bounced,” Consumers’ Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) told a press conference in Taipei.
Currently, only vehicles with eTags — electronic stickers developed by Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC) to pay tolls electronically — are entitled to the discount.
Foundation deputy secretary-general Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男) said if the ministry had no problem promptly adjusting its toll rates during the Lunar New Year holiday and other national holidays, it should be able to complete testing the discount mechanism before the deadline.
“The National Freeway Bureau even had the audacity to say it needed another two to three months to test the mechanism without setting a date for when it will take effect,” Lin said, calling the bureau’s inefficiency a “disgrace” and urging it to take political responsibility for the “bounced check.”
Chang also criticized the bureau’s repeated refusal to provide non-eTag users with their vehicles’ records of passage through toll facilities on the grounds that doing so would violate the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).
“Article 14 of the Management of Highway Toll Collection (公路通行費徵收管理辦法) stipulates that the competent authority should send a written notice to drivers who fail to pay the required toll while passing a toll highway detailing their license plate number, car model, time of passage and direction of travel,” Chang said.
“If the bureau refuses to provide such information to road users, how can they find out if they have been overcharged by FETC?” Chang asked.
Chang said the eTag toll system has been a magnet for controversy since it took effect in December last year, but the ministry has done everything in its power to protect and make excuses for FETC, including tacitly allowing the company to put off paying a total of NT$620 million (US$20 million) in fines for failing to meet certain contract requirements.
“The foundation urges the ministry to publicize its contract with FETC and subject it to public scrutiny. If Yeh fails to take responsibility for his policies and safeguard the interests of motorists and the country, he should follow some of his former colleagues and step down,” Chang said.
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