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Class action launched against ‘un-Australian’ toll fees

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Queensland truck driver and small business owner Dave Kitson is among a growing list of disgruntled toll users who are fed up with being charged excessive fees by Transurban. Now, a class action has been launched against Transurban’s Queensland business Linkt for its exorbitant fees on overdue notices.

Within the first few days of being filed, the class action had already received thousands of people signing up – and the team behind it at Hilton Bradley Lawyers are expecting tens of thousands more.

Like many toll road users, Kitson was unknowingly stung by admin fees that were higher than the unpaid tolls.

“The fees are over the top,” he says. “I think it’s a bit outrageous. If you don’t pay your phone bill or electricity bill on time, you usually get a reminder, but you don’t get charged for it so why is Transurban charging so much for it?”

Currently in Queensland, when a motorist fails to pay a toll, Linkt charges them an initial administrative fee of $8.50 in addition to the toll. If that isn’t paid within 10 days, the administration fee goes up to $23.81 for every notice – and it very quickly adds up.

“Monetarily, the impact these sorts of fees can have on a small business can be pretty big, particularly if you’re not aware of it, and it just compounds and compounds,” says Kitson.

“Most people are probably like myself. You get a bill in the mail and you just pay it – and that’s what I did. The bill came and I went streuth, I’ve got some unpaid tolls, so I paid them. Like me, I’d say a big percentage of people would pay the bill without realising the fees they are being charged,” he adds.

Hilton Bradley Lawyers considers Linkt’s administrative charges “to be excessive and not reflective of ‘reasonable’ cost as permitted by Queensland law”.

Solicitor Luke Whiffen launched the class action after one of his clients received a notice from Transurban.

“It was for a large amount of money and when I looked at the breakdown of it, I noticed it was largely composed of administration fees. I saw in the Transport Infrastructure Act that Transurban is only permitted to charge reasonable fees.

“Here, we were talking about tens of thousands of dollars. I know of one client that was charged $24,000,” he explains, adding that many transport businesses are being especially hard hit.

“With higher fuel prices and a tighter economy, the last thing you need is to be hit with unlawful administrative charges which can be 14 times the amount of the toll.

“The issue is, if you’ve got a $10,000 bill from Transurban, are you going to go and sue a $43 billion ASX listed company? Go to court? Hire lawyers and pay an expert hundreds of thousands of dollars to determine what a reasonable fee is? It’s impossible to challenge because litigation like that is a massive scale.”

Kitson hopes that this class action against Transurban makes more motorists aware of the fees they are being charged and leads to changes in the way Transurban structures its fees.

“I think this is the right thing to do. You’ve got to stand up for yourself, you can’t just be walked all over and turn a blind eye,” he says.

Anyone who has paid an administrative fee on ‘non-payment’ or overdue notices issued for toll roads in Queensland in the last six years may be eligible to be part of this class action.

“When people register, we also need them to enter into the funding agreement because if we don’t get enough people doing that, then we won’t be able to proceed with it,” says Whiffen. “What we really need is scale.”

For more information or to register, please click here.

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