ERC changing how it bills those who use pay by plate

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is back on toll patrol with important information about how Elizabeth River Crossings is going to bill from this point forward.

ERC has cleared up a lot of those issues with back bills and gigantic fees that reach into the thousands of dollars, but now it’s time for new late fees to kick in should you not pay your tolls.

There has been a stand down on new fees on old bills, but that changes starting Monday. After 30 days, a new $25 late fee per monthly unpaid bill will be added. This is a huge improvement over the old skyrocketing, escalating fees per tunnel trip.

“I’m not tired, but I’ll be honest, I got a little tired,” ERC’s new CEO Philip Shucet said with a hearty laugh.

He wasn’t laughing like that when he showed up 94 days ago, taking over the embattled Downtown and Midtown Tunnel operators, ERC.

Toll coverage on WAVY.com

July 3 marks a new billing system for pay by plate accounts.

“If an account is not paid within 30 days, the monthly statement will have one $25 late fee no matter the number of transactions.”

The good news: In June, ERC settled 16,500 accounts. The bad news: 200,000 delinquent accounts remain, but the late fees on those accounts replaced with a single $25 a month late fee.

“We will reconstruct that old debt in the context of the new $25 late fee on a $30 rolling cycle.”

On Friday alone, Shucet says 5,400 calls came into this Customer Service Center.

“Our customer service center closes at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., we had customer service reps on the phone settling accounts for the amount of tolls they owed.”

One woman who did not want to be identified said, “The agreement — I owed a balance of $800. My settlement was $325, which was the actual toll pretty much.”

However, she doesn’t have the E-ZPass, and a shocking 20 percent of those who use the tunnels pay by plate, which is the most expensive way to go.

10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox pointed out to her that the E-ZPass is cheaper. She responded, “You are absolutely right… I am going to get an E-ZPass.”

Sadly, most of the people WAVY News has talked to say they don’t get the E-ZPass because they don’t trust ERC with their information. That’s what Mike Ward said. He credits 10 On Your Side for holding ERC accountable.

“So I went in there and they adjusted it from $1,000 to $230. Evidently the work you’ve done and the people talking to you has made a big difference… You were a voice for the people. Everybody contacted you, and you got up here and  broadcast about what they were doing, and they didn’t want the bad public relations, and that is the way it should be,” Ward said.

Shucet has been on the job just 94 days, and it is clear since then the ERC company culture has changed. It appears ERC has the same name, but with a new attitude.