Taking a Toll: SunPass bills customers to compensate for backlog

(WSVN) - SunPass has taken a toll on many drivers. Customers are getting billed over and over again after a botched upgrade and now Senator Bill Nelson is asking for a federal investigation. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

It’s part of life for most South Floridians: highways, traffic and tolls.

Electrician Johnny Farias is on the road all day, everyday.

He is used to SunPass bills. But over the last week, his charges started multiplying.

Johnny Farias, upset with SunPass: “Twenty-five dollars at 3:43 in the morning, 8:35 p.m. the same day. I don’t understand why.”

The list of Johnny’s charges go on and on.

And SunPass customers around the state are having the same problem after a $287 million upgrade to the system by contractor Conduent didn’t go as planned, and many customers were not billed for over a month.

Now customers say SunPass is piling on the charges to make up for the backlog.

Johnny Farias: “Oh, it hurts when you get charges you are not expecting and being this small, you depend on a weekly budget.”

Unexpected charges and website outages.

It’s gotten so bad that some Florida lawmakers have nicknamed the debacle “tollgate.”

State Senator Annette Taddeo: “The problem is a lot of people live day-to-day. This is their debit card. It is hard to all of the sudden have a huge amount of money taken out.”

Taddeo wants drivers to be forgiven for all tolls during the failed upgrade.

And Florida Senator Bill Nelson is asking for a federal investigation into the state contractor accused of causing the outage.

Senator Bill Nelson: “I want some redress for the consumers’ problems. They shouldn’t be having to have suddenly a big bill.”

The Florida Department of Transportation says they won’t issue late fees or penalties until the SunPass system is fixed.

A statement said: “SunPass is working diligently to clear the backlog of toll transactions. FDOT continues to hold the vendor fully accountable for the delays it has caused and will be enforcing all penalty clauses of the contract to the maximum extent possible.”

Johnny Farias: “My message for them is they need to get on the ball and take care of the people who are actually paying the bills because they are hurting us.”

The chances of the state actually suspending the tolls while they work through these problems is not likely because according to state law, the only reason the tolls could be suspended is for an emergency evacuation.

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