Question For New York CUs: For Whom The Toll Bills?

Register now

Credit unions in New York are being hit with a new invoice: from Canada.

And despite the fact New York's CUs have tried to help boost revenue for the country, efforts to resolve the problem have gone nowhere.

At issue is a system installed on a Canadian toll road that has replaced toll-takers with cameras that snap a photo of each car's license plate, and then forwards an invoice. For U.S.-licensed cars, Canada sends a list to the appropriate state, which is most often New York, seeking contact information for the owner of the plate, The invoice is then supposed to be sent to the driver.

The problem? Canadian authorities are not being provided with the contact information for the actual driver of the car, but the lien holder of the car. In other words, whoever financed the car gets the toll bill.

"Our first step was to see if enough of our credit unions are getting these tolls, enough to make this an issue for our credit unions," said NYSCUL's Donna Chardeen. "We thought maybe we'd get a few responses back to our survey. Normally, when we send a survey out to our 383 members, maybe we get 10 responses. We got about 180 responses back, with at least half of them saying they get these toll notices from Canada and don't know what to do with them. That's an unbelievable response."

It seems like a simple matter to resolve: make sure Canada gets the proper information from New York. But among government bureaucracies, nothing is easy.

"Canada feels like they're doing what they're supposed to do, regardless of the fact that they're just not getting paid for these tolls," Chardeen related. "When we talked with the state, they said they're giving Canada the information they are asking for, and it's not up to New York to tell Canada what to ask for."

When the league tried to explain the situation to Canadian authorities, suggesting the toll-road operators revise their information requests in order to get the proper billing information, the league didn't seem to get very far.

Do You Want To Get Paid?

"We've explained to them that they're not asking for the right information, but they continue to say they're doing what they're supposed to do," Chardeen commented. "And we've said, 'Ah, but you'd actually get paid if you sent the bill to the correct person.' You'd think that would make an impression, but apparently they don't care that they're not getting paid."

While Canada may not be particularly worried about the situation, credit unions in New York really do want to do the right thing. "Some have taken the license plate number and then go to the DMV to get the right information so they can forward it along to the credit union member whose car it really is. Because there's no way, from the information in the letter from Canada, for the credit union to know which member's car has been on the toll road."

But the process isn't just annoying, it's costly. "Credit unions can't become the collection agents for Canada, that's not their job," Chardeen stated. "Plus, the DMV charges the credit union for the forwarding information. A number of credit unions have written to Canada themselves."

But to no avail, Chardeen noted. "What it's come down to is us giving credit unions permission to ignore these letters," she added. "We've checked into this, and credit unions have no legal responsibility in the matter."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
MORE FROM AMERICAN BANKER