The National Freeway Bureau is to pay Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC) NT$113 million (US$3.7 million) for additional operating costs the firm incurred from informing electronic toll collection system users about unpaid fees by regular mail, following a ruling by the High Administrative Court in mid-February.
The bureau said it decided not to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court after consulting with its lawyers, who told the agency its chances of winning were low.
Both the Taipei District Court and the Taipei High Administrative Court had ruled in FETC’s favor.
The agency is to pay the firm NT$74.2 million for regular mail postage and NT$38.8 million in interest, it said, adding that the sum would be paid in full this month.
FETC was contracted by the bureau to collect freeway tolls through the electronic toll collection system. Based on their contract, the firm is obligated to inform users who have defaulted on tolls through registered mail.
However, a resolution passed by the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee in 2014 stipulated that motorists must be informed about their unpaid tolls through regular mail first.
The bureau at first agreed to pay the postage for notifications through regular mail, but some lawmakers said that it should not, as the move would benefit FETC.
The lawmakers then passed another resolution asking the firm, rather than the bureau, to pay the postage for the regular mail, in addition to registered mail postage it had originally agreed to pay.
FETC can redeem the costs of the registered mail by charging the system’s users processing fees for the notifications.
The company argued that its operating costs had risen due to the regular mail postage and later decided to settle the dispute in court.
The Taipei District Court ruled against the bureau, saying that the lawmakers’ resolutions had crossed the legal boundaries set by the Budget Act (預算法) and related laws, which should only serve as suggestions and are not legally binding, and that the agency should pay the postage for regular mail based on its contract with FETC.
The bureau appealed the ruling, which was later upheld by the Taipei High Administrative Court, which cited the same reasons.
The bureau is now required to compensate FETC for regular mail postage paid from 2014 to last year, as well as interest.
The postage issue was only one of several disputes between the bureau and the firm.
FETC had also fought in court a NT$400 million penalty from the bureau for the low usage rate of onboard units — devices no longer in use that were installed in vehicles and used to communicate with the electronic toll collection system — and delays in upgrades to the system to allow the use of eTag transponders.
The Taipei District Court ruled that FETC was only required to pay NT$70 million for delayed upgrades to the eTag system, instead of the NT$140 million demanded by the bureau, but has yet to rule in the usage rate case.
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