'Sanral must fix billing'

23 January 2014 - 02:27 By PENWELL DLAMINI

The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) must fix its billing mess before demanding payment for the use of e-tolled roads in Gauteng.

Consumer watchdog the National Consumer Commission said that, though Sanral had the right to demand payment from motorists for using e-tolled roads, its billing should be accurate and conform to good business practice.

The commission's head, Ebrahim Mohamed, yesterday said Sanral demanding payment without giving users the chance to query bills was "not proper practice''.

The onus was on Sanral to prove that a motorist had travelled on a specific road at a specific time, he said.

"The demand for payment, however it is communicated, has to be correct and accurate. It is incumbent on Sanral to prove to any consumer who raises a query that the road was used on a specific date, by a specific vehicle, and that the charge is based on set tariffs."

Sanral has come under fire for using "unlawful and extortionist tactics" to try to force frustrated motorists to pay "exorbitant" e-tolling bills.

With outrage mounting over "threatening" SMSes and e-mails, and incorrect billing, several bodies have urged motorists to complain to the National Consumer Commission.

Motorists have been receiving text messages from Sanral demanding payment. But they lack detail and proof of authenticity.

Motorists without e-tags have been shocked to learn that, if they did not pay Sanral within seven days of passing under a gantry, a triple toll is levied.

Mohamed disapproved of Sanral's response to queries from the public.

"The commission is of the view that it is not proper practice for consumers to be told to pay now and query later.

"If this is the case, it is a matter that consumers need to take up with Sanral's management."

Mohamed urged motorists to try to resolve their problems with Sanral first and if that had failed to approach the commission.

Some motorists have turned to public protector Thuli Madonsela for help.

Yesterday DA national spokesman and Gauteng premiership candidate Mmusi Maimane said the party had received over 300 complaints about Sanral's billing system.

"The most common complaints are about people not receiving invoices, incorrect amounts for travel and bills going to people who have not travelled recently.

"It is clear that Sanral's billing system is not working," said Maimane.

Maimane said his party would fight e-tolling "at every turn".