AUSTIN, Texas - Toll roads are supposed to make life faster and easier, but a lot of TxTag customers in the Austin area are finding that billing blunders are making it anything but simple.
While TxDOT is in charge of the TxTag system, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority handles pay-by-mail billing for some toll roads in the Austin area—and they say things are getting back on track, after issues with a TxTag vendor.
"Here we are thinking this is going to make our lives easier, and now it’s becoming more of a complication," said Bessy Martinez of Georgetown.
Martinez originally started using TxTag’s auto-pay when she lived in Dallas, but only began having issues when she moved to Georgetown.
"We started receiving a bill, which to us was a surprise. It would come out and say ‘hey, you owe us $25 and x amount of cents,’ which to us was like ‘why do we owe this’. It should already be reduced, we haven’t changed anything," said Martinez.
Money was supposed to be withdrawn automatically from her TxTag account, and re-upped when it got low. Sure enough, when she checked, the money was there.
"Our app would say you still have a balance of $18, and I would say okay why did I just get a bill of $25 or an additional $18," said Martinez.
In online reviews, drivers have been venting their frustration at TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which handles toll billing in the Austin area.
FOX 7 received an email from Jodi who moved from Austin to Fredericksburg. Despite trying to change her address multiple times, she says, "the owners of our old home are still receiving past due bills in our name."
In another email, Chase says he’s been getting a $500 bill even though he has a TxTag, and has seen money pulled out of his account. To boot, he says he’s been charged the "pay-by-mail" rates.
"It’s not fair," said Martinez.
The issues appear to be due in large part to technical glitches with an outside vendor that works with TxDOT to manage TxTag’s back-office operations. As a result, the CTRMA actually stopped billing customers by mail last November because they didn’t have confidence in the data they were receiving from TxTag.
But now CTRMA says in a statement: "…the Mobility Authority has been assured by TxTag that any declined transactions from their system are appropriate and based on this assurance, we have resumed Pay By Mail billing for such transactions on Mobility Authority roads."
"There should be at least an open communication. ‘Hey, we’re having issues. Maybe we can’t go into the details of it, but just be aware.’ Just have an open communication with the consumer," said Martinez.
The CTRMA statement goes on to say: "If a TxTag user believes a billed transaction is in error and should have been assessed to their TxTag account, we advise that they: (1) pay the Mobility Authority Pay By Mail bill; and (2) contact TxTag to ensure their TxTag account is in good standing...Toll transactions billed through the Mobility Authority's Pay By Mail program cannot be retroactively paid through a tag account. These bills must be paid directly to the Mobility Authority."
Given all the confusion, some people we spoke to say they’re going to think twice about getting on these toll roads in the first place.
"Absolutely, yeah. I would just take $35 and just hold my temper down," said Martinez. "If that’s the reason then fine I’ll just jump on the highway just like everybody else."
The Central Texas Regional Mobility authority can be reached at paymobilitybill.com, or by phone at 1-833-762-8655. Customers can log into their TxTag account at TxTag.org or call the TxTag Customer Service Center at 1-888-468-9824.
In an email to FOX 7 late Monday afternoon, the CTRMA further addressed specific issues, including address changes and pay-by-mail rates:
State law requires us to use the address on file with the Texas DMV registration records. Far too often people do not update that information in a timely fashion, or sometimes at all (many people assume when they update their address on their driver's license that it carries over to their vehicle registration - that is not the case). We encourage customers to make sure their information is correct and current with all relevant parties.
Pay By Mail rates
Bills that have been generated from us for TxTag holders are a result of four rejected attempts to post to their TxTag account. We have no access or insight into the status of any TxTag accounts. Once in our system these customers are considered Pay By Mail customers, are billed at the higher Pay By Mail rate, and need to pay those specific bills through the CTRMA. As mentioned in the statement, TxTag currently has messaging on their website indicating that customers may contact the TxTag Customer Service Center at 1-888-468-9824 to request the TxTag rate.
We have seen a steady flow of inquiries regarding this situation. We encourage all TxTag customers who receive a bill from us to remit payment online, by mail, or by phone to ensure resolution and avoid additional fees. TxTag customers should then contact TxTag to ensure their accounts are in good standing and that future transactions won’t be impacted."
FOX 7 received an email late Tuesday afternoon from TxDOT, which reads in part:
"We are not aware of an unusual number of customers receiving past due bills or with the issues noted…Customers are encouraged to contact our customer service center if there are concerns. TxDOT has replaced IBM as the vendor and have made substantial system improvements. CTRMA is processing and billing TxTag transactions normally. We have not received an unusual number of complaints with customers not being able to change their addresses, but if there are these instances they should contact customer service."