The verdict on the 407: It drives motorists crazy
David Menzies
National Post
CREDIT: Peter Redman, National Post
ROCKY RIDE: Users of Highway 407 share a litany of horror stories spawned by frustrating encounters -- or lack thereof -- with the billing department for the toll road.

Recently in this space, I ranted about my treatment at the hands of the Highway 407's billing department. To recap: For more than two months now, I have tried to contact the humanoids who are to answer the customer service phone lines for the 407. The reason: My 407 tolls are paid automatically via credit card.

Recently, my Visa card expired and was replaced. I called the 407 customer service line on numerous occasions to pass on this new billing information. I would have an easier time making contact with the pilot of a UFO than speaking to a live person at 407 headquarters.

These days, I am harassed by a collection agency employed by the 407. Several times each day, a long-winded recording warns me to settle my account, or else. Fine! I want to pay my bills! But here's the kicker: At the end of the message, I am given the 407's toll-free customer service number. You know ... the number nobody ever answers.

I cherish reader feedback, just to see how I'm measuring up on the genius/jackass index. Often, these columns generate a mixed bag of pro and con responses. Not this time. The 407 is batting 1.000 when it comes to irking its users. According to respondents, linking the words "407" and "customer service" is an oxymoron akin to "luxurious Lada."

Here's a small sampling:

TOM SEPHTON WRITES I have had the identical experience to yours over the past six months. When I requested a letter stating the account was sent to collection in error, I was told it is not [their] policy to send such a letter. My company has approximately 20 corporate transponders and you wouldn't believe the story with respect to these. I'm on my way down to return the transponders today, as I also have no more time for their arrogance.

BRUCE MACAULAY WRITES I [recently] got a call from a Ms. Edwards at 407's customer service department. Now, get this: Ms. Edwards told me that the whole [billing] mess came about as a result of not one, but two, computer crashes. It seems that all the corrected infor- mation I entered on the [407] Web page was wiped out when their mainframe went down for a second time. Here is the interesting part: The 407's powers-that-be never thought about having a backup system. You guessed it: None of the customer payment data was backed up. Even after the first computer crash, no one thought of doing it. Ms. Edwards says they are telephoning 80,000 customers to get the payment data by hand.

RAY HUNTER WRITES I asked how many customer service reps they had and the [customer service rep] would not give me a straight answer.

KEVIN KAWAGUCHI WRITES I know so many people who have had issues with 407 charges. I discovered an interesting form of revenge by accident. I overes- timated the interest on a late payment and wound up with a very small credit on my account. I do not have a transponder, nor do I use the 407 regularly. The 407 billing system continues to send me monthly statements with my credit listed. The cost of processing the statement and the mailing costs far outweigh my $1 credit balance. There are ways to annoy the 407 corporation.

CAROL ROSSMAN WRITES I could have written your article verbatim. I'm still waiting for an e-mail confirming I am no longer on their collections list and no longer being billed twice on my Visa for a whopping amount. Thanks for making public the debacle of the billing department at the 407.

GARFIELD CRESSMAN WRITES Regarding the "arrogant indifference" of the 407 organization -- I couldn't agree more! I have attempted to contact them via their so-called customer service number. I either have an unacc-eptable waiting period [in excess of 10 minutes] or I get a message that says the number is "out of order."

My issue with them is two-fold: First, they continue to show a charge from July as past due when the amount [was] withdrawn using Internet banking. Secondly, my transponder failed in September and I made several trips before realizing I was no longer hearing the usual beeps upon exiting. I was assured, upon travelling to Oakville to pick up a replacement, that the non-transponder charges would be removed. Despite several letters explaining the situation, this has yet to happen. In fact, I received a notice from them last week that I am required to pay this "outstanding" amount before they "consider my request to consolidate my accounts."

Menzies again: Unfortunately, the 407 holds a lofty hammer over the heads of Ontario motorists. Namely, the 407 enjoys a sweet deal with the Ministry of Transportation. If a motorist does not settle his/her account, the driver's licence is not renewed. The 407 can ignore us; but we cannot ignore them.

My solution: Since the 407 has such a cozy relationship with the MTO, the province must mandate and monitor customer service standards for the 407.

The 407 should be forced, by legislation, to clean up its appalling customer service act, once and for all.

 Copyright  2002 National Post


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