COLUMN: Be aware of the collection abilities of ICBC

Jeff Nagel’s recent story in The News about the enforcement of bridge tolls brought a smile to my face

Jeff Nagel’s recent story in The News about the enforcement of bridge tolls brought a smile to my face.

Just before Christmas I received a letter from TReO announcing they had placed a refuse-to-issue order on me with ICBC. I would not be permitted to re-insure a vehicle or renew my driver’s licence without paying my delinquent bridge toll fees.

Whaaattt???

I’d signed up for automatic pre-authorization payments on my credit card long before the new Port Mann even opened, so how could I now be delinquent?

Fortunately, before embarrassing myself with a lengthy rant containing naughty words to whoever picked up the phone at TReO, I looked at my VISA card, and realized that it had been renewed last May. The authorization date on my tolling account had expired.

I owed $33 in crossing fees, which meant, oddly, that I’d travelled over the Port Mann an uneven 11 times since the card expired. How I managed that is anyone’s guess.

On top of the $33 I was charged a further $20 for being negligent, and to get the refuse-to-issue notice lifted.

Of course, and as the person at the other end of the phone pointed out, they had been sending me emails with the subject line “Your TReO bill is available online” informing me that my credit card had expired. But since I knew my bill was being paid automatically I never bothered to look online or pay any attention to the emails.

While I felt a bit stupid about my oversight, it was not deliberate as I knew each time I crossed the bridge it was costing me $3.

So how I wonder, as detailed in Nagel’s story, can someone rack up $8,000 in unpaid bridge tolls and not be aware of it until ICBC refuses to renew his insurance.

Even with all the late fees and interest, that driver must have been one busy boy back and forth across the Golden Ears toll bridge.

Surely he would have known that one day it would, as it did, catch up with him.

His wife, quoted in the story, says it’s not fair to deny people the ability to drive without the option to gradually repay the debt over time.

Seems to me her husband had that option each time he crossed the bridge, but chose not to.

What many people fail to understand is that ICBC is a most effective collection agency for unpaid fines, PST on vehicles bought out of province, bridge tolls and I’m sure many other fees that are delinquent.

Refuse payment, and you are effectively denied the use of your vehicle …  at least legally.

Fortunately, my quickly remedied skirmish with TReO averted any embarrassment with the sweet ladies I visit a few times a year to renew insurance on my vehicles.

As to the expense of using the Port Mann, it is more than made up in time saved. I no longer feel a trip into Vancouver is going to take hours off my life.

I will agree however, that a $6 return trip for someone who has to commute daily could be a little onerous on the budget, but a least there are no longer any time-stealing traffic jams to deal with on a regular basis.

markrushton@abbynews.com