TIJUANA.- A group of residents that use prepaid “IAVE” transponders to pay toll fare to commute back and forth via the Playas de Tijuana toll booth are reporting a recent spur of charges for “phantom crossings” that they claim they never made. This morning, many angered users took to social media and lined up in front of the customer service office to complain about the unaccounted-for charges.
One user uploaded a screen shot of his online account which depicts twenty-three toll booth crossings in a time lapse of less than ten hours over the weekend. A separate user claims charges for 22 crossings from 3am to 6am on Sunday, and yet another claims 19 charges over the course of this weekend. Many users realized that something was wrong after being unable pay with their transponders despite having recently recharged them. Upon further inspection, they realized they had negative balances and had been charged for “phantom crossings”. Before being able to use their transponders – including any discount entitled to – users must pay off the negative balance and deposit additional pre-paid funds.
Residents claim that a similar problem occurred last year when the system was switched to a different technology, and that users were charged for “outstanding charges” as a condition to obtain new sticker transponders for their cars.
Now, some users claim that they are being told that these new charges are also outstanding charges that were caught and logged in an end-of-month process, and that a technical problem had prevented them from being logged at the time of crossing. However, users are not able to access the actual dates that these “phantom crossings” correspond, and one user that keeps a manual log claims that the charges cannot possibly be legitimate.
This recent “system error” is yet another grievance in a long list that residents have against the toll booth operations. They argue that the primary burden is that they have no free alternative but are forced to use the toll road to travel within their own community — sometimes multiple times per day. Many remark on the coincidence that these charges are appearing just days after hundreds of them participated in a demonstration protesting unequal treatment, compared to other Tijuana residents. These residents are additionally frustrated because the customer support office at the Playas de Tijuana toll booth has a limited schedule during the week, does not open on weekends, and does not have the authority to reverse the charges.
Today, Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran was scheduled to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Ensenada, and had previously committed to include the topic of toll booth exemption for residents in the agenda. No word has been received yet as to whether or not the matter was discussed.
Lawyers for the group are asking users to submit evidence of the overcharges, and are attempting to pursue the matter up with authorities of the consumer administration, PROFECO. The group has invited affected residents to a attend a conference to be held on June 2, 2015 at the office of TLC Asociados at noon. A representative for PROFECO will be in attendance and residents are asked to bring documents demonstrating excess charges.