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Despite Reform Instituted Last Year, Some Illinois Tollway Users Struggle To Resolve Incorrect Charges

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Illinois Tollway system instituted tolling reform last year, under which the penalty for a missed toll went down from $20 to $3.

The reduction was supposed to streamline processing at Tollway call centers. But CBS 2's Lauren Victory found two recent cases in which customers said they were forced to take their complaints way up the chain.

RELATED: Driver Caught Off Guard After Tollway Stops Waiving Fines For I-Pass Users Who Miss Tolls

You'll often catch hair product wholesaler Tom Buffano on the road. The Kansas City transplant is trying out the Chicago market.

Paying tolls comes with the new territory. Paying hundreds extra for penalties was not part of the gig.

"Our frustration level rose because of the fact that, how can $200 tolls turn into $700?" Buffano said.

His tango with the Illinois Tollway happened because of a license plate error. His pay-by-plate account had the right numbers, but the wrong state - Illinois instead of Kansas.

His wife filed an appeal, thinking forgiveness for the mistake would be an easy get.

Instead, Buffano said, "They said, 'Well, we can't correct anything, but you can go to the Circuit Court and fight it if you'd like.'"

Involve a county judge? Is that really the best use of our resources? Maybe, When you consider how another viewer got his penalties waived.

This Tollway traveler asked we share his method but not his name. The tipster shows us an error message he received when trying to pay his tolls online, and he said requests for help went unanswered.

Then he found the number for the Tollway's Inspector General. Two days later, these penalties disappeared.

A fairly recent Inspector General report shows investigations into timekeeping, employee drug testing, and tollway vehicle damage. More simply - fraud, waste, and abuse - not customer disputes over penalties.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Tollway clarifies our tipster's complaint was routed from the IG's office back to customer service for resolution.

Speaking of that, Buffano paid his bill.

"We're good honest people," he said.

He was worried the $500 in penalties would escalate, and he didn't want to tie up the courts.

The businessman has a word of advice about customer service.

"I always treat people the way I want to be treated," he said. "If we make a mistake on our business, I want to take care of it right away."

Buffano said the license plate mistake was caused by a glitch on the Tollway website. The agency says it was a customer error.

Whatever happened, the Tollway tells us a review of the account shows Buffano took all necessary steps to pay his tolls so he'll be refunded for the penalties.

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