Tiny bill becomes huge problem for toll road customer
Posted August 8, 2012
Cary, N.C. — We all know if you don't pay a bill right away when it arrives, you end up paying more.
It happened to Cary's Tony Micale with his Quick Pass toll.
When the unpaid bill increased 80 percent in two months, he called 5 On Your Side to warn the rest of us.
"So I got a bill in the mail for 45 cents because my daughter drove on the toll road," Micale told us.
Micale doesn't have a Quick Pass transponder, so a bill arrived in the mail.
"I didn't really know how to handle a bill for 45 cents," Micale said with a shrug. "Do I write a check? Do I sign onto the Internet? So I kinda figured 45 cents... forgot about it."
A month later, another bill arrived.
With the processing fee, Micale now owed $6.45.
"So I figured OK, better pay it this time," he told us, chuckling.
Again, time slipped away and when he finally went online to pay it, he was shocked.
"So by the time I remembered to pay this, I think it was around the third of July, it had already gone to $37.45."
That amount included another $6 fee and a $25 fine.
"So I think that's a bit of a gouge, really," Micale told us.
N.C. Quick Pass calls the fines a good business decision.
"Because sometimes $6 just doesn't get the customer's attention," said Barry Mickle, who heads the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.
Mickle says $6 covers the cost to chase down the customers each time they're late. The $25 civil penalty kicks in on the second late payment.
"For those folks who don't follow the rules that are in place and don't make their payment the first time, we do have to put some fees on it," Mickle told us. "Because it costs us money."
Micale admits he should have just paid the 45-cent bill when it first arrived.
"Right, exactly. Hindsight's 20/20 and that's what I should have done," he said. "I'm trying to just warn everybody not to neglect this 45-cent bill because it does accumulate processing fees and penalties in a hurry."
He added, "It's more of like an FYI for all my fellow citizens out there."
An FYI that plenty of new toll users hopefully will hear.
After all that, N.C. Quick Pass dropped the additional $31 in penalties.
But Mickle warns customers should pay attention to upcoming bills. The new section of toll road on Interstate 540 started charging August 2.