AUSTIN (KXAN) – As the complaints about the state’s TxTag program continue to roll in, we are getting answers for the first time from the very top of the state’s department of transportation. Hundreds of you have reached out to us about long wait times, busy signals and trouble accessing account information online while trying to resolve TxTag billing problems.
The transportation department recently penalized Xerox, the company contracted to operate the toll road, nearly $177,000 for system failures. TxDOT added Xerox now faces additional penalties of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for its failure to meet contractual and performance obligations.”
TxDOT would not agree to an interview this week, so KXAN Investigator Brian Collister tracked down the executive director of TxDOT.
“The penalties and fines in the contract are not unusual,” said Lt. Gen. Joe Weber, TxDOT’s executive director. “These penalties assessed were for failing to meet some milestones. The other opportunities or times where they could be penalized are for performance measures, and we’re reviewing that right now with Xerox.”
Weber maintains Xerox is a good company with a good reputation and TxDOT will continue to work with them.
“This has been a very complex and challenging transition in the data part here. And we have 102 million people with TxTags.”
A second round of delayed toll bills is affecting about 400 customers, according to Weber.
“I tell you, we’re very sensitive to that, we’re going to get it fixed, and we’re going to work very closely with Xerox to get it fixed,” he added.
Weber is hearing the complaints as well. Even from his friends.
“My friends call me all the time. We know what those complaints are and we’re working at them. Xerox is working to increase the number of people in their customer service. Again, this was a second bi-wave of past bills that we have sent out. So, we’re working very hard to get a handle on it.”
But how soon will those fixes be put into place?
“It is my hope and I really believe by the end of the week we’ll see some progress here,” said Weber.
Xerox’s $100 million contract with the State of Texas includes handling customer service and the TxTag website.
“Am I happy with Xerox? No. I’m not happy with myself. I’m not happy with TxDOT,” said Weber. “Anytime that the people of the state of Texas are giving us their tax money, they expect us to perform and provide them good services and in this particular case we haven’t. But we’re going to make it better and we’re going to work very hard to make it better. Again, it’s been a very difficult transition in the data transfers, but we’re going to work through it.”
But what about all of the customers still struggling to pay their bill or figure out if they were billed in error? Weber says TxDOT is going to make it right.
“Because as our constituents, as people of the state of Texas who have entrusted us their tax money to build these roads and pay tolls, we owe it to them to make it right. And we are. So be patient with us, we’re sensitive, we’re working very hard. We have some of the greatest people in the staff here working with Xerox and we’re going to make it better.”
The continued problems also have one Cedar Park lawmaker calling for an audit into whether TxDOT has been collecting money from customers who may have been billed in error.
“This entire situation has gotten completely out of hand,” said State Rep. Tony Dale. “I wonder how many thousands of dollars of erroneous toll violations have been assessed and collected.”
In a statement Tuesday, Xerox said:
“Xerox continues to work diligently to address transition processing issues related to the data, which includes an unusually large amount of aged data that was handled by the previous TxDOT vendor. The delay in billing is part of the conversion to a single account structure – no more separate bills (TxTag, pay-by-mail, violation) for the same vehicle. The temporary delay will have long-term benefits as all transactions will be posted to a single statement/invoice. Xerox has hired more than one hundred people to alleviate the wait time customers are experiencing.”