TxTag toll refunds reach $11 million as drivers seek more transparency

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Andy Dominick says it was a gut punch to see his company credit card rung up 74 times at $360 apiece. It took two weeks and multiple phone calls with TxTag to get more than $15,000 in toll charges refunded.

“You’re dead in the water without cash flow as a small business,” said Dominick, who is General Manager of Miracle Method, a home resurfacing company. Miracle Method has a fleet of 15 vehicles that regularly use TxTag toll roads to get to and from customers’ homes in Central Texas.

Dominick says because of the withdrawals, he couldn’t pay vendors and advertisers on time this month.

“[We] got a call from a couple of our suppliers the first of this month, saying our credit card wasn’t going through,” he told us. “They were able to work with us, which is great, but it’s still embarrassing.”

Dominick is far from alone. The Texas Department of Transportation says it has refunded more than $11.7 million back to drivers because of overcharges linked to last year’s system upgrade.

For months, our investigative team has been reporting on the rollout of the TxTag system upgrade, intended to make life easier for customers but bogged down by technical problems. The toll authority, which is funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, had said customers would start to see multiple charges posted to their account that were incurred from late October 2020 to January 2021.

Dominick even sent a direct message on Twitter to TxDOT Executive Director James Bass, who told him: “The issue began after our vendor put a change into production and it had the unintended result of over billing some commercial accounts.”

TxDOT’s vendor for toll transaction processing and customer service software is IBM. According to a department spokesperson, the state has fined the company more than $6 million for contractual obligations not met. That contract began at the beginning of 2019.

The breakdown of fines include:

Migration, cutover, and deployment to Production Environment$ 2,600,000
Production Support and Defect Correction$ 2,100,000
Documentation and Training Materials$ 900,000
Project Sign-off and Closure$ 467,896
Pending Approval or Pending Delivery of Deliverable$ 6,067,896

For perspective, TxDOT’s old toll operator, Conduent, was charged more than $2 million for not meeting metrics between 2014 and 2018.

“When issues arise and it is determined that a refund is needed, we work to process the refund as quickly as possible,” said a spokesperson for TxDOT, speaking on the continued customer complaints about overcharges. “If the customers believe something is wrong with their accounts then we work to address the issue as soon as possible by either reversing the charge or refunding the customer if an issue has not already been corrected.”

But Dominick says customers shouldn’t have to put in the work to get back the money that’s rightfully theirs. He says the toll authority should be more transparent and proactively reach out to customers about what is going on.

“If we had never caught this or called them, they would have never had a clue,” he said.

TxDOT says it continually updates the TxTag.org homepage with announcements and sends information to customers electing to receive communications about the upgrade.

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