ETag fiasco is bureau’s issue: Jiang

RESPONSIBILITY::The electronic toll company is a ‘quasi-public’ utility and so it is the government’s role to supervise the company’s operation, the premier said

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporters

Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - Page 4

Minister of Transportation and Communication Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) was yesterday instructed by Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to read the riot act to the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau over the eTag toll collection debacle.

The new toll system took effect on Jan. 2 after freeway toll booths were shut down, but it has been dogged by errors involving excessive toll deductions from customer accounts, prompting a wave of complaints.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, Jiang was quoted by Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) as saying that while the eTag system is operated by Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC), the company is a quasi-public utility and therefore it is the government’s responsibility to supervise the firm’s operation.

The FETC must take responsibility and fix the problems urgently, but the process must be supervised by Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau, Cheng quoted Jiang as saying.

Jiang was also quoted as saying that the public sector should be proactive about using policy or laws to improve its service to consumers.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) agreed that the bureau had been negligent.

“I will decide on when to hand down the punishment and who should be held responsible, but only after the bureau has handled the problems with eTags,” the minister said.

Asked if he would personally meet Far Eastern Group owner and chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) to resolve the issue, Yeh said it would be inappropriate for him to meet with Hsu as they represent different parties in a build-operate-transfer contract.

When asked if the ministry should apologize, Yeh said that both FETC and the ministry are responsible for failing to gain the trust of eTag users.

Yeh said that FETC demonstrated it was incapable of dealing with the technical issues when it falsely claimed its mobile phone app crashed at the beginning of this month as a result of hacking.

He added that the bureau was also at fault in simply accepting what it was told.

The ministry would issue severe penalties against the firm if it fails to improve, Yeh said.

“Whether I leave or stay in the Cabinet is decided by the Executive Yuan,” he added.