Sanral’s move to gazette the non-payment of etolls a finable traffic offence is moving forward, the Etolls Collection Company (ETC) has said.

Backlash against the proposed amendment of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act came from Outa back in December, when it urged the public to rally against the proposed change by taking advantage of the open public comment platform and voicing their objections.

But, while public comment is being taken into consideration, the roads agency is still in the process moving forward with gazetting, ETC’s COO Mark Ridgeway, has said in a statement.

“Sanral is moving towards an AARTO infringement,” Ridgeway said. “Simply put, that means traffic fines will be issued in line with international practices in Australia, Europe etc. and if you do not pay your outstanding fee within the grace period, they can issue a traffic fine for that infringement. The process is currently in the works to make sure that happens.”

When asked if Sanral is weighing its decision up against public comment, Ridgeway acknowledged  that the public comment process has to run its course, but indicated that Sanral is moving to act as planned.

“Whether the 117 000 comments is a valid set of comments is something to be determined by legal experts and Sanral’s perspective accordingly,” ETC CEO Jamie Surkont added.

Surkont further said whether Sanral invokes the amendment or not, it needs to be gazetted properly to follow due processes.

Misinformation around “illegal SMSes”

Back in January, Outa flagged a number of “threatening” SMSes that were being sent to motorists urging them to pay their outstanding etoll balance or face action.

According to Ridgeway, the screenshots provided by Outa are of SMSes sent in February 2014, a few months after etolls had been implemented.

“When we started in December 2013 with our debt collecting process, one of the first communications that went out out was ‘you’ve been handed over’. That was harsh…and in your face, but Sanral, openly stated we can’t be so harsh, so we toned the wording down,” he said.

“The very SMS that was in that article [Outa’s screenshot] was from Sanral, therefore it contained a different call centre number and referring to Sanral,” he went on.

“The word ‘misrepresentation’ came out,” Surkont added. “We don’t believe any misrepresentation is taking place. For example, this company operates under an awarded contract to operate this scheme on behalf of Sanral, when you phone the call centre to register, we don’t answer as ETC, we answer as Sanral.”

Another argument Outa made about the SMSes was the fact that they did not include an opt-out option as required by law.

Ridgeway explained that this only applies to communication messages sent on behalf of a commercial company such as a retail shop or service where individuals sign up for credit. Etolls, on the other hand, are an obligation by law and therefore, this law does not apply to those SMSes.

[Image CC by 2.0 – Paul Saad]