TxTag customers question billing system ‘maintenance’ claims

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Kaushik Gopalakrishnan said it took him months to finally receive a TxTag bill after driving through a toll in April. But, when he went online to pay for it on Monday, the day the bill was due, he wasn’t able to log into his account.

Instead, he was greeted with the following notice: 

TxTag customer-specific information is temporarily unavailable. FAQ and information pages are still available. Please try again later. Thanks!”

After a yearlong investigation into customer concerns of improper billing and sudden high late fees, some drivers, like Gopalakrishnan, wonder what additional fees they could face if they can’t pay their bill on time since they can’t access their accounts on the TxTag website.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s already at $15,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just late fees or something else is gonna happen. That worries me a little bit.”

Gopalakrishnan isn’t alone. On Monday, one driver visited the Texas Department of Transportation TxTag Customer Service Center during his lunch hour after getting a message preventing him from paying his TxTag bill online. But, within a minute of walking into the building, he walked right back out – annoyed he was unable to take care of his account.

The TxTag website offers no explanation as to why customers cannot make a payment online, or when they can expect that part of the site to be up and running again, but a TxDOT spokesperson told KXAN they are making “progress” on a maintenance upgrade that was scheduled over the weekend, but “that’s taking longer than expected.”

About 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, TxTag posted an announcement on its website letting customers know they can access their accounts.

The notice also said, “The TxTag Customer Service Center phone lines continue to experience technical difficulties, but it is recommended that you access your account online for urgent activities. We continue to work to bring up all functionality as quickly as possible.”

A TxDOT spokesperson told KXAN on Monday they are informing customers about the maintenance and they appreciate customers’ “patience.”

“For it to be down for so long without any notification, that’s definitely frustrating,” Gopalakrishnan said.

The notice on the site comes just weeks after KXAN reported potential financial security concerns with the site. TxDOT contracts with Conduent State & Local Solutions to handle all TxTag operations.

Conduent helps run TxTag’s website and billing and payment process, but on Monday the company referred KXAN’s questions to TxDOT. 

Conduent has received attention in other states who have reportedly experienced issues with how the company handles its toll systems, including earlier this summer in Florida, where it took them at least 20 days to perform a system maintenance of its services. The Florida Department of Transportation said the problems with their toll tag program caused a billing delay and that “no late fees or penalties” would be issued during the “website and mobile app update.”

 In July, KXAN reported about two U.S. senators who called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Conduent for tollway billing problems in Texas, Florida, Michigan, California, New York, New Hampshire and Maryland.

Months after KXAN’s initial investigation, a new law went into effect in March capping TxTag’s late fees at $48 annually. Before the cap on fees went into effect, customers were charged a $25 collections fee per individual toll violation, meaning some unpaid bills would have thousands of dollars in collection fees added for only a few hundred dollars in actual tolls.

After the law went into effect, TxDOT announced its decision to waive $1.3 billion in late fees assessed over the last decade.

Still, some customers say the problems just keep piling on.

“TxTag really needs an overhaul,” TxTag customer Thomas Magness told KXAN. “It seems like a very frail and brittle system that they have set up. I think TxDOT needs to do a better job of enforcing the contracts and the stipulations in their contracts with the companies that they’ve outsourced to.”

On Monday, several drivers told KXAN they reached out to TxTag customer service, who told them parts of the site was down due to updates and to check after 2 p.m.

But, when Magness called after 2 p.m., he said TxTag told him he’d have to call back the next morning.

“It adds to the checklist of TxTag’s neglect,” Magness said.

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