Florida has no plan to reimburse bank overdraft fees for SunPass customers

More than 90 million backlogged transactions posted, FDOT says

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - For SunPass customers there's more bad news.

Anyone wanting to be paid back for bank overdraft fees caused by the recent onslaught of backlogged tolls is going to have to wait a while.

Florida Department of Transportation confirms to News 6 that there is no system in place online or at customer service centers.

“The process for reimbursing SunPass customers who set up automatic withdrawals to pay their bills and incurred overdraft fees is being developed,” FDOT spokeswoman Kelda Senior said. 

FDOT Secretary Mike Dew said in a statement, "to make these customers whole, we are beginning the process of standing up a new system where we can work with impacted customers to make them whole, and then forward the bill straight to Conduent," the contractor responsible for the backlog of tolls. 

In the coming days, SunPass will provide detailed information for customers on the process for resolving any potential issues with their banking or credit card accounts.

“The reimbursement process and procedures are close to being finalized in the next few days,” FDOT spokesman Ed Seifert said. “Staff has been working diligently following the governor’s directive.”

Seifert said customers can call SunPass for any billing concerns as well as reimbursement questions. Call center staff members have been trained and will continue to be trained on the procedures. Customers can now utilize the Virtual Hold system and have a representative call them back instead of waiting on hold for an extended period of time when call volumes are high.

“We are committed to serving our customers and will ensure that any billing issues will be resolved without penalty to the customer,” Seifert said.  

SunPass customers said they have been hit with a barrage of tolls that didn't just trickle in, but flooded their bank accounts.

“I couldn't get anywhere with them," SunPass customer Keith Farmer, of Lake County, said. “I'm going to close my account.”

Tina Calandrino, from east Orange County, said when she started researching her account, she found problems dating back 12 months.

“If you call SunPass the wait times are 122 minutes, 117 minutes,” Calandrino said. “If you email them they open a case and don't respond back to you.”

Christine Tirado, of Ocoee, said she and her husband use the toll roads at least five days a week and are fed up with the onslaught of backlogged charges hitting their account.

“The website didn't help because it kept rejecting what I was trying to put in,” Tirado said.

Complaints flooded the News 6 Facebook page after we asked viewers to share their SunPass woes.

The primary complaints were people being charged hundreds of dollars in the past two weeks alone, because SunPass started posting between 10 million and 19 million backlogged tolls per day recently, instead of the 8 million they promised early on.

FDOT officials have not said how many customers have requested refunds for any bank overdraft fees and if any have been reimbursed.

FDOT officials said as of Friday more than 90 percent of backlogged transactions have been posted,  less than 24 million remain.

On Thursday, State Rep. Kristin Jacobs wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, calling for the removal of Secretary Dew. She claims Dew has shown a blatant and willful disregard to answer any of her questions outlined in three letters to his office.

Jacobs said within two hours of her sending that letter to the governor,  FDOT sent a response, but she's not satisfied with the answers.

“I find it shocking, I never experienced such disregard for a lawmaker’s request for information,” Jacobs said.

Rep. Bob Cortes, who sits on the House Transportation Subcommittee with Jacobs, said the state vendor, Conduent, should pay for all the problems.

Cortes, who represents Altamonte Springs, has been demanding accountability for SunPass since June when the website and payment system upgrade problems first started in June. It's been 71 days since it all began.

“The Department of Transportation has been pressing Conduent on a daily basis to make this right,” said Cortes, adding that he learned Conduent needed to acquire new servers to meet the demands of the new upgraded SunPass toll system.

That's an expense that he said Conduent will have to swallow and not pass along to taxpayers. Cortes said Conduent will also have to pay a $5,000 fine and other charges for every day the system was not fully operational.

“Eventually once the smoke is cleared, we will still hold them accountable on this,” Cortes said. “Even though they may not get paid now, they may get paid later, they're still going to be held to pay all the extra overtime that we've incurred all the extra charges we've incurred.”

Cortes said he's heard from countless people who have called, emailed and ranted on social media about their SunPass problems. He agrees customers have a right to be upset, and this could ultimately affect Conduent's contract with the state.

“Part of the vendor selection is performance, and performance is going to weigh heavily on the next renewal of the contract,” said Cortes. “We may be shopping for a different vendor.”

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