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Taking a toll – what do I do about unpaid tolls? (factsheet)

This fact sheet is for information only. It is recommended that you get legal advice about your situation.

Download our printer friendly version here (PDF): Taking a toll

CASE STUDY
Two years ago, Steve sold his car and cancelled the e-tag which was installed in the car. A few months ago, Steve received a letter from a debt collector stating that he owed $15,000 in unpaid tolls for a car which he sold 2 years ago. Steve ignored the letter and has now received a Statement of Claim, commencing court proceedings against him for failure to pay the debt.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T PAY A TOLL?

Under law, motorists are required to pay a toll whenever they drive on a toll road.

In New South Wales, all toll roads are electronic. If you do not pay your toll using an e-tag when you drive or do not arrange to pay your toll within 3 days after it is charged, toll recovery processes will be commenced against you as described below. It is important to remember that for each time a toll is unpaid, a separate toll recovery process may be commenced.

1. Toll Notice

The registered owner of the vehicle will receive a Toll Notice asking them to pay the toll and an administration fee. The administration fee is currently $1.10 if paid with an electronic tag account, or otherwise $10.

2. Final Toll Notice

If the toll is still unpaid, the registered owner will receive a Final Toll Notice asking them again to pay the toll. This may include a further administration fee.

3. Penalty Notice

If the toll remains unpaid, Roads and Maritime Service NSW (RMS) may choose to send a Penalty Notice to the registered owner of the vehicle. As motorists must pay their tolls, a Penalty Notice can be issued without previously sending a Toll Notice or Final Toll Notice. The penalty fine is currently $165.

4. Enforcement Notice

If the Penalty Notice is not paid, the State Debt Recovery Office may issue an Enforcement Order. This will include an additional fee which is currently $65.

5. Enforcement Action

If the Enforcement Notice is not paid, the State Debt Recovery Office may choose to start enforcement proceedings against you to recover the debt. This could include:

  • Suspension of licence
  • Suspension of vehicle registration
  • Seizure of goods from your property
  • Garnishee (deduction) of wages from your salary or bank account
  • Examination before the Local Court to determine your financial
    position
  • Charge on land to prevent you from selling your property

Toll operators may also commence civil proceedings against you to recover an unpaid toll. More information is below.

Hot tip! Financial Rights has seen an increase in toll operators using the civil process to recover debts rather then using State Debt Recovery Office process as outlined above.

A DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY/TOLL OPERATOR IS THREATENING TO TAKE ME TO COURT OVER UNPAID TOLLS – CAN THEY DO THIS?

As you have entered into a contract with the toll operator by using the toll road, you are required to pay the toll to them plus any administration fees. If you do not pay the toll, the toll operator may decide to pursue you for the debt. The toll operator can pursue you for the debt themselves, or may sell or refer the debt to a debt collection agency.

If you are receiving letters or phone calls from a debt collection agency about your unpaid tolls, you should read our factsheet Dealing with Debt Collection.

If you are served with a Statement of Claim in relation to unpaid tolls, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. This is because you have 28 days from the date you were served with the Statement of Claim to file a defence, otherwise the debt collector may obtain a judgment against you which they can use to seize your property or take your wages or savings. You should also read our factsheet Debt Recovery in Local Court.

WHAT HAPPENS TO UNPAID TOLLS IF I BECOME BANKRUPT?

You should seek legal advice if you have unpaid tolls and are considering bankruptcy. This is because unpaid tolls may or may not be ‘provable’, or included, in your bankruptcy depending on the stage that the toll debt
recovery process is up to. If the unpaid toll is a “fine” issued by a court it may not be provable in bankruptcy or have other implications such as your driver’s license being suspended.

WHAT DO I DO IF I RECEIVE A NOTICE TO PAY A TOLL BUT I WASN’T THE ONE DRIVING?

If you were not the one driving when the toll was charged and you have now received a Toll Notice as you are the registered owner of the vehicle, you should not pay the toll.

You should complete a statutory declaration that nominates another person to pay the toll if:

  • Someone else was responsible for paying the toll, for example, your partner or a friend
  • You recently sold your car and the new owner should pay the toll
  • You recently purchased your car and the toll should have been paid by the previous owner

For NSW, the statutory declaration is available here. You should submit it to:

Toll Compliance Management
Locked Bag 5004
Parramatta NSW 2124

Once the toll operator or RMS has received the statutory declaration, a new Toll Notice will be issued to the person nominated in the statutory declaration and they will have to pay the toll and administrative fee.

Hot tip! As your toll liability is linked to real time ownership of the vehicle it is important that the new owner transfers the registration to themselves. As the previous owner, you should complete a Notice of Disposal. You can do so at the Service NSW website. Also if you let people regularly use your car you should review your toll notices regularly to work out who was driving.

I HAVE RECEIVED AN UNPAID TOLL NOTICE CHARGING ME ADMINISTRATIVE FEES ON TOP OF THE COST OF THE TOLL – WHAT CAN I DO?

When you use a toll road, you enter into a contract with the toll operator. Under this contract, you agree to pay the toll and any administrative costs associated with collecting the toll if it remains unpaid. However, you may negotiate with the toll operator to reduce or remove the administrative fees.

FINANCIAL HARDSHIP

Some toll operators have financial hardship policies which provide extra protection for consumers who are experiencing hardship. For example, Transurban, who operate tollways in NSW such as the Cross City Tunnel, the M2 and the M7, have a hardship policy published on their website. The options available for consumers under this hardship policy include:

  • Extension of due dates
  • Payment plans
  • Payment-free periods (moratoriums) of up to 3 months
  • Reduction of fees payable

When deciding whether to apply the hardship policy, Transurban will look at the customer’s financial position, eligibility for welfare and/or income sources.

CAN UNPAID TOLLS SHOW UP ON MY CREDIT FILE?

If a debt collection agency or a toll operator successfully takes you to court over unpaid tolls, the court judgment will be listed on your credit report. See our factsheet: Your Credit Report.

MAKING A COMPLAINT

If you have a complaint relating to the demands made by a toll operator for unpaid tolls or with the conduct of a toll operator, you should first contact the toll operator to ask them to review the amount that they claim you owe.

WHAT IF I’M NOT HAPPY WITH THE RESPONSE FROM THE TOLL OPERATOR?

If you have a complaint relating to the demands made by a toll operator for unpaid tolls or with the conduct of a toll operator, you should first contact the toll operator to ask them to review the amount that they claim you owe.

If you are still unsatisfied after the review, you can contact the Tolling Customer Ombudsman (TCO) on 1800 145 009 or at www.tollingombudsman.com.au.

The TCO can deal with complaints about toll roads owned/operated by CityLink, EastLink, E-Way, go via, M5 South West Motorway, Roam or Transurban Linkt. These are:

New South Wales

  • M5 South-West Motorway
  • Cross City Tunnel
  • M1 – Eastern Distributor
  • M2 – Hills Motorway
  • M7 – Westlink
  • Lane Cove Tunnel
  • Military Road E-Ramp

Victoria

  • CityLink
  • EastLink

Queensland

  • Go Between Bridge
  • Legacy Way
  • Clem7
  • Airportlink M7
  • Gateway Motorway
  • Logan Motorway

You should lodge your complaint with the TCO as soon as possible after receiving an unsatisfactory response from the toll operator. Making a complaint to the TCO will not stop the tolling operator or debt collector from pursuing action against you, however the tolling operator may decide to delay pursuing action against you for unpaid tolls while the complaint is being investigated. If legal action has already commenced, a complaint to the TCO will not stop the court action.

You can lodge a complaint with the TCO if you have been issued with an infringement notice from a state authority – for example, from the NSW State Debt Recovery Office or the RMS, but the TCO does not have jurisdiction over these agencies. The TCO, however, may be able to assist if there has been fault on the part of the toll operator that has led to the issuing of the infringement notice.

Hot Tip! The Sydney Harbour Bridge or Harbour Tunnel are owned and operated by the RMS and are not members of the TCO. If you are unsatisfied with a response to their review, you will need to contact the NSW Ombudsman.

WHAT POWERS DOES THE TOLLING CUSTOMER OMBUDSMAN HAVE?

The TCO can do the following:

  • Investigate complaints about tolling operators, provided that they have first been raised with the tolling operator.
  • Request and examine records and evidence from the tolling operator.
  • Propose negotiation or mediation between you and the tolling operator to reach an agreement about unpaid tolls or other complaints.
  • Make decisions that are binding on the toll operator (but cannot require the tolling operator to pay you compensation).

The TCO aims to act fairly with regards to both the customer and the tolling operator, and will consider each parties obligation to comply with the terms and conditions of the tolling operator, including the obligation to pay for journeys where a toll road was used.

However, the TCO will not do the following:

  • Deal with complaints where you have been issued with an infringement notice from someone other than the toll operator (e.g. RMS), other than explained above
  • Look at your dispute after legal proceedings have been issued.
  • Consider disputes about the classification of vehicles – for example, if your vehicle has been charged as a light vehicle rather than a car
  • Consider the level of fees and tolls fixed by each tolling operator.
  • Make binding decisions on toll operators that require them to pay compensation to you
  • Deal with complaints about toll roads that are operated by toll operators which TCO does not have an agreement with – including the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Harbour Tunnel

If you are not satisfied with the response from the TCO, you should seek legal advice about your right to commence legal proceedings against the tolling operator.

Last Updated: June 2017