I just received an email from NSW Roads & Maritime Servies E-Toll informing me that the terms and conditions of my E-Toll account and tag have been updated. The T&Cs document is 14 pages and there is no indication of what has been changed. Since I don’t have a local copy of the T&Cs document (who does these days when they can be readily accessed online), I have no way of knowing what has been changed. I think this is poor customer service in the digital age and there should be a summary provided of what changes have been made to the T&Cs document so it’s only necessary to review the relevant sections of the T&Cs document. I have plenty of examples where companies update their T&Cs and provide a summary of the changes, so it’s not “too hard”.
I also have the same beef when I receive updated T&Cs. Some companies will provide a high level summary of what the changes are (find these are usually multinational or very large Australian companies), but most don’t provide any information in relation to what the changes are and how they may affect the consumer.
The change could be as small as adding a full stop or changing the date to indicate that a review has occurred, to significant changes which could affect ones decisions in relation to the use of the service subject of the T&Cs.
One would expect that in today’s day and age, it would be very easy to produce two copies of the updated T&Cs, the final updated version and one showing tracked changes (or alternatively a summary of the changes). This would reduce confusion and also workload on the consumer having to read all the T&Cs again to make sure one is happy/agrees/ accepts them.
Also, one should expect the government to set the standard and ensure user friendliness, and not be a recalcitrant organisation.
You can’t give informed consent to the changes when the changes are buried in some ridiculously long document.
It’s obvious that companies won’t all do the right thing in this regard unless they are legally obliged to do so.
This does however lead to a related problem i.e. the ridiculously long document itself. In selected industries (banking, telco) companies may be obliged to produce a pro forma summary of the Terms and Conditions in plain English. In general though you are on your own.
The other practice that is questionable for tolls and similar services is when a major consumer change does occur.
Eg Change in charges for credit card payment, Changes to how you can pay, Changes to minimum balance requirements.
These changes are clearly announced. They are typically accompanied with an updated T&Cs doc. How many of us assume that the updated T&Cs cover only the listed item/s?
It would be nice if the ACCC made a requirement that all changes to T&Cs are to include a complete list of what actually changed since the previous version. Expecting a complete re-read is just not practical for consumers.
In the programming world, we call this a “diff”, essentially a side-by-side comparison of the parts that changed.
I found a summary of the changes:
Not sure when it was added, but it would have been easiest if the link was included in the email notifying the changes.
I sent RMS an email on this very issue expressing my dissatisfaction. They responded saying they’ll take it on board so we’ll see what happens but they seem to be taking notice when people write to them. I wasn’t abusive but neither was I gentle in my wording as I feel these issues generally arise due to sheer laziness and thoughtlessness. It was also interesting that they provided a link to the T&C which simply redirected to their home page, which had no sign of them and resembled one of those poles you often see with 20 street signs attached. Apparently this is acceptable from the RMS, as is the construction of some ridiculously designed sections of our road system. But don’t you go speeding even a bit ‘or else’.
The length of T&C documents is increasing, and thus increasingly ridiculous. In the interests of ‘full disclosure’ we’re provided with an unintelligible barrage of information after which companies can say they’re serving us better. It suits their purposes for you to be intimidated by these documents so they’re happy to ‘help’ by providing this info. I hired a car recently and the T&C consisted of 16 pages of none too clear info, when I questioned what ‘overhead damage’ meant I received an answer that was as imprecise as I’ve ever heard. It would be wonderful if everyone who hired a car over the next 48 hours insisted on reading the full T&C at the counter before signing for the keys but of course no one has the time, meaning the company wins again.
Recently I received a notification of T&C changes from Mac Bank. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw there was a summary of changes only to become deflated; while I could verify they were written in English I’d wager they made no sense to the majority of account holders. In fact they reminded me of those computer error messages that sometimes appear when installing new software…‘Root file ubb.32 caused an error, invalid main indexing was shut down. XYZ interface rejected’. Thanks for the help…even though it’s unintelligible…so seriously, why bother? The sad part is that someone, somewhere in the company, thinks this is ok.
I would seriously encourage people to mobilise consumer power if they experience T&C overload or amendment fatigue - call the company and ask them to talk you through it all in detail, in English so you can understand. The more people ring, the more likely they’ll get the message.
I think we are all in furious agreement.
- Massive and/or legalese Ts and Cs are not in the interests of consumers.
- Buried updates are not in the interests of consumers.
Both are designed to protect the interests of the company.
You correctly ask to consumers to mobilise their power.
Very true, but consumer power must be mobilised not just to fight shoddy T&C amendments.
I cannot speak for toll roads outside NSW, but why is it that in NSW they are not very well signposted?
Case in point: recently driving from the city (Sydney) to the western suburbs via Parramatta Road, I
stayed in the left lane approaching Ashfield so as to avoid the WestConnex toll gouging me $8.87.
So you can imagine my surprise when in the subsequent toll statement I see I was debited for allegedly
using the toll road.
I objected in writing to the toll operator, mentioning I avoid that toll point like the plague and have done so for
many months without getting slugged the $8.87 and so cannot understand how I was billed.
The reply by the operator indicated that I passed a toll point, hence the charge.
Two questions come to mind:
- How can anyone tell if a toll was debited to my a/c without justification and without alerting me at the time (with a beep as I allegedly passed a toll point, as is the case with the Sydney Harbour Tunnel toll point); and
- Why are there no road signs to alert drivers which lanes to stick to in order to avoid a looming toll road?
Well it doesn’t take too much imagination to take a guess at that but I think in some cases there are such signs. (After all, the government doesn’t want accidents caused by vehicles careering across lanes, in either direction, at the last second.) For any specific intersection, it would require familiarity with that intersection to say whether there is or is not a sign (which familiarity I don’t have).
I suggest that if you deliberately drive to avoid that toll point like the plague then remove the tag as you pass and hopefully it won’t activate as you pass the toll point.
Thanks for the feedback. As to signs, the only ones I know are close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge indicating one is already driving on the lane flowing into the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Call me “conspiratorial” but I suspect that the toll owners insisted in their contract that the gov’t will not place any signs offering a toll fee option.
I do know that in the case of the Lane Cove Tunnel in northern Sydney, the tolls are detailed say 1 km or so before the tunnel entrance but again, no clear cut toll fee option is spelled out at the signage.
As to your point on removing the tag so as to avoid this toll, I recall a couple of years ago it was when I installed a tag in my Toyota. Hitherto I paid for any toll online, within the 3 days allowed. I do not recall being fleeced for a toll when driving the same route.
Don’t all toll points have rego readers?
I found the following informative. Some options, tolled and toll free for getting across Sydney from Hornsby to Campbelltown. What one would do to continue on the national highway network joining the Pacific and Hume Hwys. Perhaps Linkt is not part of the conspiracy? There are always options.
Yes, it’s frustrating one cannot continue more directly from one national highway to another without the inconvenience of a state government in between.
I’ve had enough tag failures in Brisbane and Sydney to know that the camera is equally effective at passing the cost to the account.
87 traffic lights on the untolled route??? YIKES!!!
Yes. But, whereas some RF thingy can be read just because you are “nearby”, a rego reader is more likely to be aligned with the road, so won’t read unless you are actually driving onto or off the toll road.
Without specific knowledge of this intersection, I can’t say for sure whether it would make a difference.
We’ve successfully navigated the toll systems of our 3 largest cities in the past weeks.
As well as the Tom Tom inspired navigation the road signage along our chosen routes indicated which roads were tolled and which were not.
It was possible to identify toll free routes with the navigation app on the iPhone/Apple mapping. Surprisingly as noted in my previous post even Linkt who is our toll operator will offer up a toll free option.
The toll detection points appeared to be well separated from the alternate routes. No issues so far.
It’s some years since we travelled on the WestConnex Ashfield portion.
Have you asked for a photo match for the journey?
For the future one could place the tag in a small tin and keep it in the glovebox until needed?
Thanks for that. I have not checked online for toll free options. My point was that there are no physical signs on the road (before one passes a toll point) alerting drivers to a toll free alternative.
But there are plenty of signs spelling out how much eye gouging the toll operator will engage in, depending on the type of vehicle one is commanding.
I did not ask for a photo as I need to establish its cost. If it costs a good percentage of the toll I was charged, then it isn’t worth following up.
Your idea on placing the tag in a container is good. In the event that I do that and get charged a toll and charged the admin fee to process the toll, I suppose I could in my defence say that I have tag and as it did not work as it is supposed to, maybe it’s faulty.
My understanding is the convention for signage alerts one to the upcoming toll road and the last exit prior to being tolled is signed as such.
and at least in Victoria toll road signage is in blue so the subsequent sign would be similar to
I have never seen a sign suggesting alternate free routes, just those warning to get off the tollway before you get tolled if that is what you want to do.
Sorry for the late reply.
Thanks for pointing out the Victorian protocol of signage warning of an upcoming toll.
In all my travels in NSW, where I live, not once have I seen such a sign.
Well done Premier Andrews.