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Not So E-ZPass: Drivers Rack Up Fines At Cashless Tolls Due To Credit Cards Not Being Recognized

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Countless drivers are reporting that ever since cashless tolling took effect at Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridges and tunnels, they have gotten hit with a mountain of fines.

As CBS2's Jessica Layton reported, cashless tolls have transformed the speed to get through the city's congested bridges and tunnels. But now, commuters are complaining cashless tolls have caused them countless problems.

"The billing disasters; the fines," said Sarah Kenny of Rockaway Beach.

Kenny said she was charged a fortune in fines.

"I've never had a problem with the E-ZPass system, and in the last three months, I've paid over $450 in fines," she said, "not tolls -- fines."

When technology took over at the toll booths, the E-ZPass system stopped recognizing her credit card on file. Suddenly, she was hit with hundreds of violations for not paying the $2.16 toll at the Cross Bay Bridge.

"I mean, it's ridiculous," Kenny said. "Cashless tolls was sold to us as a benefit or a betterment, and it's really not been that way."

Since cashless tolling took effect, surprise fines have been piling up on unsuspecting drivers like never before.

Tom Reilly of Staten Island said at one point, he owed $2,200.

"It's amazing," he said.

Reilly did not know his debit card information was not up to date until he got hit with more than a mortgage payment's worth of violations at the Hugh Carey Tunnel. And in another dilemma, drivers do not know when their account has a low balance – because those convenient indicators are gone with the new gantries.

Reilly wrote E-ZPass asking for forgiveness and got his bill reduced.

"There's probably hundreds of people that just wrote the check because they get intimidated," he said.

The letter from the MTA threatens that if the fees go unpaid, your account could be sent to collections or your registration suspended. But why are the fees so high?

A representative said it is to tackle chronic toll evaders and keep drivers responsible.

But a local assemblywoman has gotten so many complaints about cashless tolling, she is asking the state to put the brakes on the violations.

"Forgive fines and fees that really should not be on there, and then start properly with a clean billing cycle," said Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato.

When asked if the state has admitted mistakes were made, Amato said, "They're admitting they could have done a better job in informing the public the ways you get notified about low balance, and different ways to keep the account current and not get fined."

Since then, the MTA contacted customers, urging them to sign up for E-ZPass mobile alerts. That is not good enough for drivers such as Reilly and Kenny, who said they cannot be sure they won't be unfairly fined again.

"Frankly, whoever is in charge has really dropped the ball," Kenny said.

If you are an E-ZPass customer, you should check your account and make sure all your information is up to date – especially your credit card. Also, make sure your license plate number is registered.

To dispute a violation, you can call E-ZPass or write a letter as Reilly did. For more information, go to the E-ZPass website.

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