BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) - The Better Business Bureau is now looking into the billing and collection practices of the Northwest Parkway Toll Road.
The probe was sparked by a CBS4 investigation after a viewer received a $232 collection notice for unpaid tolls without ever driving on the Northwest Parkway.
The Northwest Parkway is an 11-mile stretch of road in suburban Denver, privately operated by a company from Portugal. The speed limit is 75 mph and motorists don't have to stop at tollbooths. Instead, cameras capture images of license plates and drivers are billed later.
Kathy Kent of Littleton has never driven Northwest Parkway and "didn't even know what it was" until she started to receive collection notices in the mail.
"It makes me nervous because its saying that it could potentially, put a lien on my property, on my bank account or garnish my wages," she told CBS4.
At first she thought the collections letter was a scam. Then she did an Internet search and found a number of complaints with the Better Business Bureau about the Northwest Parkway and the collections company it uses.
"Any pattern of complaints, where we are seeing the same thing over and over again, is concerning," said Better Business Bureau spokesperson Megan Herrera.
The BBB has received 26 billing and collections complaints about the Northwest Parkway over the past year.
"We noticed a pattern of recurring issues where consumers were saying they were receiving notices of collection when they never received a bill in the first place," said Herrera.
Pedro Costa, CEO of the Northwest Parkway, LLC, says the toll road gets an additional 30 complaints a month on its own. But Costa says the number is "statistically low" when you consider Northwest Parkway mails 1,500 bills per day. As an operational procedure, the Northwest Parkway typically mails three or four toll bills to customers before sending the bill to collections.
Costa says the majority of complaints he gets are from customers who claim they never received bills in the mail and later are asked to pay a penalty.
"When we look at our records we actually verify that the bills were sent to the correct address," said Costa who says the Northwest Parkway works with customers to resolve every complaint.
The Better Business Bureau says it has scheduled a meeting with Northwest Parkway to help get to the "root cause" of the billing and collections complaints.
CBS4 helped Kathy Kent get to the root of her problem.
"My name is Kathy, not Katharine," she explains.
Someone named Katharine Kent racked up 11 unpaid tolls. The collections agency couldn't find Katharine Kent, so it sent a collection notice to Kathy Kent in Littleton. A similar name, but the wrong person. It was a mistake Costa says he's never seen before.
"In my perspective, I don't think there are two sides to the story. There is only one side. There was an error," said Costa.
In a written notice to Kathy Kent, the collections agency promises "refresher training for all collectors to ensure that this does not occur again."
- Written by Mark Ackerman for CBSDenver.com
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