Class action against Highway 25 bridge fees gets green light

Motorists object to $5 administration charge

By Robert Frank
www.thesuburban.com

Quebec Superior Court has given the go-ahead for a class action lawsuit by car owners who were charged a $5 administration fee after their vehicle crossed the toll bridge linking Montreal and Laval.

The span that carries traffic along Highway 25 across Rivière des Prairies is owned by a private company, Concession A25.

Commuters are obliged to use an electronic transponder to pay a toll of $1.80 for crossing the bridge, or $2.40 during peak hours. If a vehicle isn’t equipped with a transponder, Concession A25 takes a photo of the license plate and mails the owner a bill for the toll.

The Union des consommateurs du Québec (UCQ) sued the company in 2011, because it objects to the hefty $5 administration fee that Concession A25 tacks on to the bill, bringing the cost of a single, one-way crossing to as much as $7.40.

In his Jan. 21 judgement, authorizing the class action to proceed, Justice Louis J. Gouin stated that he was “rather perplexed” and questioned why “the true cost of passage…would be $6.80 when the posted toll is $1.80”.

The UCQ contends that Concession A25 violated Quebec’s consumer protection law by failing to post the full cost that an individual must pay for crossing the bridge.

“It’s not frivolous…to think it right to be reasonably informed, prior to crossing the A25 bridge, of the true cost associated with this passage,” wrote Justice Gouin in agreeing to allow UCQ to argue its case before the court.

The judge also noted that the bridge’s operator has put up a separate sign to advise motorists that those who don’t have a transponder must pay the $5 fee. He observed that the lettering on the sign is smaller than on the one that notifies motorists of the basic toll rate, and questioned why a the operators included a telephone number alongside the notice.

“Must the driver take note of the number, all the while driving his vehicle?” Justice Gouin asked. “Is that safe?”

If the class action succeeds, UCQ wants the court to order Concession A25 to reimburse vehicle owners for all the $5 fees that they were charged, as well as an additional $5 penalty for each incidence.

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