Do you check your ePass? Are you getting overcharged?

An Alabang Bulletin reader contacted us recently and wanted us to share to the public the flaws/”technical errors” that the Skyway E-pass system is presently experiencing and without majority of its users know.

We recently wrote a similar story and it is sad to know that no action has yet been taken regarding this overcharging issue.

Here, we post the letter the reader sent to, the response from the Skyway authority and once again a letter from the reader.

Here is the first letter of the reader who lives in Paranaque:

On 31 January 2011, I called your customer service hotine to inform you of my dissatisfaction with your services, particularly when it comes to charging your e-pass customers.  As you may recall, I have written in the past to complain about the erroneous charging of e-pass accounts (i.e., misreading of e-pass tags, resulting in overcharging or double charging), which remains unnoticed to many of your customers who are not conscientious enough to get a copy of their Statement of Account every month.  I never really got a reply before from your Mr. Salvo as to how such erroneous charging was ever rectified or if the overcharges or double charges were ever really refunded to the customers. In any event, I write on the advice of your Ms. Ronette Rojas, to whom I already aired my grievances yesterday over the phone, but who requested me to write a letter, so that everything is “on record.”  To her credit, Ms. Rojas was very pleasant to speak with and was candid about the problems you are experiencing in running the Skyway system.

First of all, it is oftentimes impossible to get through to your customer care hotline (776-76-76).  The line is busy more often than not, and even when the electronic operator answers the call, it takes so long for a customer service representative to come on the line.  I have waited, on occasion, for more than ten (10) minutes, hearing the notice that my call is important to you; however, your customer service people are attending to other calls.  How many customer service people do you have?  Are there that many customers calling you each day, such that it is so difficult to get through?  This must be addressed, first and foremost, since a customer care telephone line that customers cannot get through is obviously unacceptable and so “government-like”.

Secondly, I reported my dissatisfaction about how late you charge toll fees to the accounts of your e-pass customers.  Ms. Rojas admitted to me that there is a defect in your system and explained that you are in the process of fixing it.  What used to be just a 24-hour delay now extends to a few days. In the meantime, it is disheartening and upsetting that a green light at the toll booth can be a red light the very next day, all because the charges of the past few days are suddenly updated.  The yellow low balance warning light never even shows, and the teller says that the account is already empty. This causes delay at the toll booths and promotes road rage among motorists, who availed of the e-pass and  the Skyway to make live more convenient, but tend to wait in line so long just to get through.  The frequency with which your sensors do not read e-pass tags is alarming.  Can there be that many motorists that do not update their accounts and allow their accounts to enter the red?  Or is it because of the defect in your system?  At the very least, and I have said this to you before, INFORM YOUR CUSTOMERS ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON.  Constantly.  Do not let your customers guess.  More importantly, do not inconvenience your customers, who deserve quality service from you.

Also, the traffic and long lines at the toll booths, particularly at the Skyway payment area, must be given special attention.  The morning commute to work is made much slower because of the long lines and numerous instances of the bar not rising due to non-reading or mis-reading of e-pass tags.  Further, your Skyway personnel stand around as if there is no urgency to get the line moving.  Furthermore, the non-e-pass motorists block the leftmost lane for e-pass users, causing more slow-down.  Please remember that each trip on the Skyway is P85.00.  While you may think this should be increased, it is still quite a burden to the motoring public.  Something must be done, and it should be done soon.

Finally, I am made to understand that the Skyway “guards” (the fellows in the gray outfits) are under your supervision.  They direct traffic at the Bicutan and Sucat =nterchanges, among others.  It is clear to motorists that, despite being there every day, they have not yet devised a real, workable system to ease traffic flow in these very complicated interchanges.  It is not rare to see one of them telling motorists from a certain direction to “go”, while another one of them tells motorists from another direction to “go”, BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.  The result?  Traffic gets knotted up in the middle of the interchange, and the Skyway guards are left jawing at each other to blame the other for the result, and scratching their heads in typical fashion.  Again, this must be addressed.  You are the so-called experts; the solution is in your hands.

I expect positive feedback from you, and to see the actual improvement in your overall system.  As I continue to use your roads and to avail of your services practically each day, I continue to hope that such services do not remain to be a mere reflection of the incompetent government we have today.

Okay, here is the response the reader received:

Good Day!

This refers to your concerns referred to Ms. Ronette Rojas.

The posting of default entry to some the E-Pass transactions that you raised with one of our agents last May 2009  was referred to the technical group to identify the root cause of the problem. The system administration team is currently testing a new toll collection system incorporating the feedbacks received from our patrons. With its completion we are hoping that it will address the communication issues we have noted for the efficient recording of the E-Pass transactions that may inadvertently use the farthest distance even the vehicle originated from a closer entry plaza when (1)the E-Pass antenna may be experiencing intermittent communication; (2)the entry lane has not successfully recorded the entry information due to possible tailgating of the subsequent E-Pass transaction; or (3)the intermittent performance of old e-Pass tags. When this problem is addressed at the entry lane level, correlating the paired transaction will resolve most of the dispute transactions. 

Skyway E-Pass contact center completed the seats especially in the morning shift to be able to meet the increasing incoming calls for the past months. We hope that the manpower adjustment will help shorten the waiting time per patron. Our agents are not only catering to E-Pass subscribers but also to queries that concerns the South Luzon Expressway that operates the toll road from Alabang to Calamba. Callers is asking us to take their call to know traffic situation, toll rates and the likes. Our group operates the expressway from Nichols to Alabang only.       

As to the posting of the E-Pass transactions, the delayed charging of E-Pass usage that a number of users have been experiencing is due to the adjustment in the toll collection system commissioned by South Luzon Expressway that affected the transmittal of the complete data to the Skyway system. The facility used for E-Pass lanes on all toll plazas from Alabang and Calamba, including all plazas in between were affected by the problem. We wanted to make sure that we received the complete data especially the transactions that originated in their area to ensure that we have the pair entry and exit data of each tag to avoid erroneous charging.  

I will refer your email to the Toll Collection and Traffic Safety Management and Security Heads to address the traffic at Skyway and interchanges.

My deepest apologies for the inconvenience.


Steve Salvo

E-Pass CSC

Here is the reply of the Paranaque resident to Mr. Salvo of Skyway:

Mr Salvo:

Thank you for your reply.

Once again, I recognize that you have referred the different matters I raised to the corresponding departments or personnel responsible and that you or they are supposedly tending to the problems at hand.  However, my question would again be, “Have you informed all your customers that there exists a glitch in the system, which could charge them more than they are supposed to be charged?”  Similar to my grievance in the last, it is the lack of dissemination of information to your very many customers that irks me.  Your former Customer  Service Head, Jimenez, told me that all disputed charges  are refunded – however, what happens to those charges that are not disputed?  And, how can a customer dispute a charge when he is not even aware that he may be overcharged or mis-charged?

Since you admit that there is a glitch in your system, which you are now trying to fix, should you not come out with a full page ad in all major broadsheets, informing the public of this problem, as well as the fact that the frequent non-reading of e-pass tags is a current problem you are also addressing?  Is it not in your plans to post notices that, should customers notice that their accounts are suddenly empty, it is not their fault but the fault of your system, which belatedly updates?  What are your timelines to fix the problems?  These are matters that the public should know.  Issuing apologies without doing any subsequent positive action does not cut it.

Further, aside from the traffic mismanagement at the various interchanges and the Skyway barriers, can you not come up with a method of informing motorists that the Skyway traffic is backed up to a certain point, so that before a motorist drives up the ramp and, thereafter, is left without any choice but to continue on, he can already take an alternative route?  Posting some of your guards at the entry ramps to inform motorists of the traffic situation would be a start.

Hopefully, you properly address these matters, for your own betterment and for the good of your customers and the motoring public.

 The Skyway administration had not replied to the last letter as of today, according to the complainant.

We published the letters to let everyone know (even non-users of e-Pass) about this “glitch” in the system of the Skyway.

What everyone can do is be vigilant in checking their balances so as not to be victimized by the “glitch.” Based on an email from Ed Nepomuceno of the Skyway administration a couple of months back, they are open to giving refunds to those that were overcharged pending confirmation of the overcharging.

But nevertheless, something has to be done about this.

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