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SunPass customers auditing backlogged bills find phantom tolls

Calls to customer service lead to long wait times, lack of follow through

ORLANDO, Fla. – Every day Caitlyn Crawford makes the trek from Oviedo to Winter Garden using the toll roads to go to work. She and her husband are used to paying about $200 in tolls every month.

But when her credit card account got hit for more than $500 in tolls this month, she started reviewing her SunPass account activity line by line.

She found some major discrepancies. 

"Things just weren't adding up," Crawford said. "From June, July, and some of August I definitely saw unexplainable charges."

Things like toll charges for the same transponder posted less than a minute apart. Also, toll transactions taking place while she says she was already at work or home for the night. Crawford's records show most of the errors took place at the same time the SunPass Upgrade failure was taking place.

"When I talked to customer service, they said it wasn't considered a double bill because it didn't happen at the exact same time," Crawford said. "But a minute within each other sounds like a double bill to me. I'd be charged twice within a minute or so or I would be charged while I was still at work on the other side of town."

News 6 also sorted and reviewed Crawford's account information and found even more questionable charges. We found one higher charge for a four-axle vehicle when Crawford and her husband only drive two-axle cars. Crawford said while she might understand a data entry mistake made by human, this data was created by a computer.

"Something's going on," Crawford said.

FDOT confirmed to News 6, it has received approximately 42,000 inquiries from customers regarding charges to their SunPass accounts.

Data provided by FDOT shows 13,784 toll credit adjustments have been issued to SunPass customers between June 1- Aug. 27.

FDOT communications director Ed Seifert said as of Aug. 28, SunPass customer service has received 9,655 service requests for overdraft reimbursement.

Here's a breakdown of those requests:

  • 3,578 service requests were closed due to either being unrelated to overdraft reimbursement or were duplicate requests for the same overdraft occurrence
  • 4,418 service requests were denied due to no documentation being provided
  • 788 service requests are currently being processed to determine their eligibility 
  • 871 service requests have met the criteria for reimbursement 

The 481 accounts have received overdraft reimbursements totaling $33,927. 

Seifert said FDOT is not aware of substantial glitches that prevent customers from receiving or obtaining accurate information via the website or mobile application but confirms they are investigating Crawford’s claim.

News 6 also reached out to Central Florida Expressway Authority, which runs E-Pass, about some of these issues. They said there are times customers can get charged for a four-axle charge if they are pulling a trailer or boat or if another driver is following them too closely through the tolls. Toll experts said though it is rare, computer glitches and other things do happen that can skew tolling data. They also confirm sometimes the cameras positioned to photograph drivers going through the tollways can break and can't get pictures to support the tolling data. They encourage customers to review their accounts line-by-line to make sure they are not getting duplicate charges and to report them immediately if they are.

News 6 created this online tool to help customers find out if they have been double billed.

Crawford says when she called SunPass customer service, the wait time was more than two hours.
When she finally did reach someone – she said the customer service representative simply stated her account would go under review and she would have to call back in seven to 10 business days to see if anything had been resolved.
 
More than a week later, Crawford is still waiting for that call.
 
"I think we should get refunds," Crawford said. "And I think they should be done in a timely manner." 
 
Crawford is not the only one who has problems with the way SunPass has been dealing with customer inquiries and complaints. News 6 has received dozens of calls, emails and posts from frustrated customers. One said a SunPass customer service rep told her she would have to subpoena her records when she requested photographic proof that her car went through the tolls listed. Others have just received an email stating their service request number is closed and to supply more personal records to prove their case to SunPass.

On Thursday, FDOT confirmed it is in the process of researching Crawford’s account as well as three other accounts News 6 brought to their attention. Seifert said they will follow up with the account holders with their results.
 
"I feel bad for people who live paycheck to paycheck and they've had their money taken out of their accounts," Crawford said. "Who knows when they're going to get it back."
 
As for Crawford and her husband, they have taken auto pay off their SunPass account.
 
"I don't trust them anymore with taking money from my account," said Crawford. "It makes me want to switch to E-Pass and forget SunPass altogether."

FDOT said between June 1 and Aug. 27 approximately 36,000 SunPass customer have requested to close their accounts. Approximately 1.6 million new accounts were opened during the same period.

News 6 also contacted State Rep. Robert Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, who is on the Florida House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. He said he has been fielding complaints from SunPass customers and trying to get direct answers from FDOT Secretary Mike Dew.
 
“It’s a mess,” Cortez said.
 
On Aug. 14, Dew announced Florida’s Chief Inspector General would be launching an investigation into state vendor Conduent’s handling of the system upgrade failure. Dew also announced Conduent would be facing nearly $800,000 in fines and penalties. Conduent could face even more penalties and fines if problems persist.

FDOT officials said late fees and penalties will continue to be waived to give SunPass customers time to manage the transactions that have now posted to their accounts.

Customers who have questions regarding their accounts may reach a SunPass representative at 1-888-TOLL-FLA (865-5352). They can also visit SunPass.com or download the SunPass mobile application.


About the Author:

Adrianna Iwasinski

Emmy nominated, award-winning journalist Adrianna Iwasinski joined News 6 in June of 2017. With more than two decades of covering important news events in Oklahoma and Texas, she brings an extensive background in investigative reporting to the News 6 Investigators.

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