As more and more consumer transactions occur electronically using technology that sends a receipt directly to a mobile phone or email account, a New Jersey lawmaker is insisting that the state’s major toll roads should provide the same service for motorists who use E-ZPass.
A bill introduced by Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Somerset) calls for the state’s three main toll roads — the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway — to begin providing E-ZPass users with an instant electronic receipt after every transaction.
The receipt would have to be sent via text message, email, or through a software app (application), according to the bill which is scheduled to go before the full Assembly this afternoon.
The concept is simple, Freiman said during a recent legislative committee hearing where the legislation received near-unanimous support from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Imagine … being in a store and taking out your credit card and going up to the credit-card machine and swiping it and nothing happens,” Freiman said. “We would never put up with that.”
Entitled to the option
“This bill says we should be entitled to having the option of getting an electronic receipt when a transaction is made,” he went on to say.
The E-ZPass electronic toll-collection system was launched in the 1990s by toll agencies based in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to allow motorists to automatically pay tolls by using a transponder attached to their vehicle’s windshield. The system is now used by 38 different tolling agencies in 17 states, with 35 million transponders issued and $12 billion in toll revenues collected nationwide, according to stats compiled by the E-ZPass Interagency Group.
For motorists in New Jersey with E-ZPass, the system allows their transponders to be linked directly to a credit card, debit card, or checking or savings account. The credit-card option also allows for automatic billing so that an E-ZPass account can be replenished anytime it falls below 25 percent of a preset amount.
Itemized monthly statements are provided to customers for the first six months after they set up an account, but motorists are then charged a fee to continue receiving monthly statements. Motorists are not able to get receipts after each transaction, but they can view their activity online by visiting their account page.
Lawmakers on the Assembly transportation committee noted during their last hearing that other states have surpassed New Jersey when it comes to electronic toll-collection services, including Florida, which offers an app for its SunPass system. New Jersey Transit, the state’s much-maligned mass-transit system, also provides customers with an app that allows for immediate billing and sends out electronic receipts to riders.
Help to detect fraud or overcharges
In addition to bringing New Jersey’s highways up to date with current consumer trends and expectations, the lawmakers suggested there are other reasons for New Jersey motorists to receive electronic receipts. These include making it easier for motorists to see exactly how much it costs each time they pass through a toll booth and to detect fraud or overcharges that they would have grounds to dispute.
“You should have an option of getting an email or something saying, ‘Yes you just went through (a tollbooth) and you’re being charged,’” Freiman said.
It’s unclear what it would take to update New Jersey’s E-ZPass system to allow for the issuing of electronic receipts. A fiscal note for the bill has not yet been prepared by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority operates both the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, and the South Jersey Transportation Authority operates the Atlantic City Expressway. But back-office services for the E-ZPass system are handled by an outside vendor, Florham Park-based Conduent. A spokesman for Conduent referred calls to the toll road authorities on Friday, and spokesmen for both the NJTA and SJTA did not comment on Freiman’s bill after being reached by NJ Spotlight.
If enacted, the legislation appears to provide a way for the proposed billing change to occur without upsetting the state’s existing contract with Conduent. While the electronic-receipt requirement would take effect immediately, the bill says it “shall not be construed as affecting the terms of any contract or agreement in effect as of the effective date of this act.”
This isn’t the first time that lawmakers have sought to improve consumer protections for E-ZPass users. A separate piece of legislation calls on the NJTA to make motorists fully aware on its website that New Jersey E-ZPass customers who are traveling in other states may not get full discounts offered to motorists in those states because their transponder was issued in New Jersey.
That bill was introduced after a 2017 study released by AAA Northeast revealed that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority provided an E-ZPass discount only to motorists who have an account registered in New York. The practice results in out-of-state motorists, including those from New Jersey, being charged rates at MTA facilities that are as much as $5.48 more than those for New York motorists with home-state accounts, the AAA study found.