While the Union government enforced FASTag on vehicle users on national highways, as happens with 'everything government', the number of complaints, especially about wrong deduction from the user's account, are steadily increasing. No doubt, technologies like FASTag will help reduce corruption and ease lives of commuters, it just need support from the government authorities as well as at the ground level, especially from people who are implementing this. At present, many vehicle users are blaming the FASTag infrastructure, or rather the lack of it to an adequate degree being in place at toll plazas. The government, on the other hand is busy mopping up higher toll collections after the mandatory use of FASTag. Separately, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has warned people about the selling of fake FASTag online.
The number of cases where toll was wrongly deducted from the user's account is increasing rapidly. For example, last month, Paytm Payments Bank Ltd informed that it has facilitated refunds for 2.6 lakh FASTag users, who were charged incorrectly by toll plazas in 2020. This is before FASTag became mandatory, so one can imagine the number of cases afterwards.
"While FASTags ensure automatic payment of toll charges, sometimes issues with systems and processes present at the toll plaza result in the deduction of more than the applicable charges," Paytm Payments Bank says in a release, adding, "Ensuring that users are not inconvenienced, we diligently pursued all such disputes through multiple stages, winning 82% of cases on behalf of its FASTag users."
According to Advocate Pravin Wategaonkar, a Mumbai-based activist, who has filed several cases against the tolls on highways, the dispute of wrong deduction at toll plazas arises due to delay in receiving transaction SMS.
"In my personal experience though, FASTag toll deducted SMS is received about 20-30 minutes after crossing the toll booth. If it is instantly received, it could be shown to booth operator as proof of deduction. This would pre-empt any dispute in the first place," he says.
The lawyer-activist, however, shares his experience of getting notified for two FASTags. He says, "I personally have a strange case though. After I applied, received, and installed FASTag from Kotak Mahindra Bank, about a month later I got another SMS from the same bank about another FASTag delivered to me, something which I had not ordered at all."
Abhishek A Gupta, honorary joint secretary of All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), says while there are a number of cases on wrong deduction at toll plazas, it is a herculean task to collect and share the actual numbers of transporters who are facing this issue.
"But the procedure for refunds is not as quick as claimed for all banks. There are many cases of wrong deduction from user accounts for FASTags issued by ICICI Bank. Even for FASTag users of the State Bank of India (SBI), many a times, our truckers have to pay double money at the toll plaza despite having sufficient balance in their valid accounts. We do not receive any response from SBI," Mr Gupta told Moneylife.
Many vehicle users have been voicing their concern on wrong deductions from their valid FASTag accounts on social media. While there are many complaints from the period before FASTag was made mandatory, the concern expressed shows it is still work in progress as far as the infrastructure at toll plazas is concerned.
As per data shared by ministry of road transport & highways (MoRTH) for the week between 25th to 31 January 2021, there were 8,324 complaints received on its 1033 toll free number about FASTag and toll plaza. Out of this, nearly 25% or 2,006 complaints were related with FASTag getting blacklisted and 811 complaints were resolved or in other words as many as 60% of the complaints could not be resolved.
It was followed by 996 complaints received about FASTag deduction without consent or travel, and about 30% or 322 complaints were closed. Interestingly, there were 1,349 complaints about physical (cash) payment as well as deduction from the FASTag account, and almost 50% of such complaints remained unresolved.
One vehicle user even shared a shocking experience. While he has been raising a query about incorrect debits and charge backs from his FASTag account with the ICICI Bank, someone sent him a 'collection request' under the pretext of refunding money. He even received calls from the person, who sent the SMS.
While FASTag users are raising their voices against wrong deductions and charge backs, the government is busy sharing big numbers, as usual. Earlier this month, Nitin Gadkari, union minister for road transport and highways stated FASTag issues are initial problems, and they are being resolved gradually.
Launching a live monitoring system to assess the live condition at toll plazas pan India and releasing a rating system for highways, the minister claimed mandatory FASTag for highways will help save Rs20,000 crore per annum on fuel and boost the revenues at toll plazas by at least Rs10,000 crore.
Citing the example of how FASTag has resulted in seamless traffic, the minister showed how delays at a Jaipur plaza were reduced to five minutes from the earlier 30 minutes.
"There is zero waiting time at 80% of the total toll plazas and toll collection through electronic tolling has reached 93% from 80% during the last fortnight after the FASTag was made mandatory," Mr Gadkari says.
Separately, the NHAI has cautioned vehicle users from buying FASTag online from unauthorised sellers. In a statement, it says, "Some fraudsters are selling FASTags online, making them appear to be as those of NHAI or Indian Highway Management Co Ltd (IHMCL). They are selling fake FASTags which are not valid to cross toll plazas."
Last month, NHAI had said that toll collection through FASTag has seen consistent growth following the mandatory payment of user fee through FASTag at the toll plazas from 16 February 2021. "On 25 February 2021, the toll collection through FASTag reached the highest ever mark of Rs103.94 crore with over 64.5 lakh daily transactions. The smooth implementation of FASTag has witnessed growth of 20% in terms of electronic toll collection transactions and 27% in terms of collection of user fee through FASTag," it says.
As on 26 February 2021, NHAI says, about 20 lakh new FASTag users have been added during the past two weeks, taking total FASTag issuance to 2.8 crore.
However, there is no word from the minister on issues being faced at toll plazas by vehicle users.
Last month, the MoRTH had made FASTag mandatory on all lanes in the fee plazas on national highways. "...as per NH Fee Rules 2008, any vehicle not fitted with FASTag or vehicle without valid, functional FASTag entering into the FASTag lane of the fee plaza shall pay a fee equivalent to two times of the fee applicable to that category," the minister had said in a release.
As reported by Moneylife
), many vehicle users face a common technical issue when the RFID scanners at the toll plaza fail to read the FASTag. In some cases, money also gets deducted from the user's account.
The notification published on 7 May 2018, in the gazette says, "...if a vehicle user with a valid, functional FASTag or any such device with sufficient balance in the linked account crossing a fee plaza installed with electronic toll collection infrastructure, is not able to pay user fee through FASTag or any such device owing to malfunctioning of electronic toll collection infrastructure, the vehicle user shall be permitted to pass the fee plaza without payment of any user fee. An appropriate zero transaction receipt shall be issued mandatorily for all such transactions.” (Read: FASTag: If Scanner Fails to Read RFID, then Vehicle User is Exempted from Toll Fee, says 2018 GR Notification
Since 1 December 2017, FASTag has been made mandatory for all registrations of new four wheeled vehicles and is being supplied by the manufacturers or dealers. It has been further mandated that a valid FASTag is mandatory while getting a new third-party insurance. This provision is applicable from 1 April 2021.
You may also want to read...