Our NBC10 Boston Responds team has been helping our viewers solve their consumer problems and get their money back for well over a year now. It was a long and winding road to our latest success story.
Ann Szymanski got a lesson in interstate geography recently, after a trip to Florida, and an E-Z pass transponder snafu.
"We left one car here, and decided it would be advantageous to have a car down there as well, rather than renting, so we shipped our car down no problems. It was sending it back that became problematic," explained Ann.
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When Ann’s car was shipped to Florida, she took the transponder out of it. But when the vehicle was transported back to Massachusetts it racked up charges.
"I thought that by taking the transponder off of the windshield, and putting it in the glove compartment that that would be sufficient, and it wouldn’t be charged, but I have subsequently learned that it can be charged anywhere in the car, or on your person if you’re in another vehicle," Szymanski said.
As the vehicle transport made its way up the East Coast, the E-Z pass transponder in the glove compartment registered at tolling stations in Maryland, in Delaware, in New Jersey and in New York. It was charged as a commercial five-axle vehicle for a total of almost $150.
When Szymanski realized what had happened she says she rounded up the documentation to prove the vehicle was on a transport. But she says MassDOT told her she would have to reach out to each individual state to settle the matter herself.
"They said that they could see that I was being charged incorrectly, but that the state of Mass. has no ability to negotiate with these other states, and they wanted to provide me with the 800 numbers for me to call each independent state to get a refund," Szymanski said.
That’s when she contacted NBC10 Boston Responds for help.
"It was just so time consuming, and I thought it was ludicrous to suggest that I’m going to call up New Jersey and say: 'Hey New Jersey, it’s Ann, and I want to talk to you about the charge on the Fort McKinley Bridge,'" she explained. "It was silly."
NBC10 Boston Responds reached out to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. A spokesperson tells us: "Each state where this individual received a tolling charge has its own separate tolling system and MassDOT cannot access the internal systems of these outside states, and remove charges these states are owed."
So, we called each state’s respective department to get the charges corrected. It took a month, but Szymanski finally had her money back, along with a new expertise on E-Z pass transponders.
"The one thing that I have learned is that it can be activated and charged regardless of if it’s in your purse, on your windshield, in your glove compartment," she said.
If you are transporting your vehicle, MassDOT says to remove the transponder. Place it in the foil bag it came in, or wrap it in household aluminum foil to prevent it from incurring charges.