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NRA using their technology to force drivers use their toll service?

Since the advent of the barrier free tolling, one or two readers of the Value Ireland Blog have voiced their suspicions that the NRA sensors at the M50 toll plaza are selectively not identifying cars using non-eflow tags in order to snuff out competition to the eflow tags themselves.

Take one reader, for example, who has an eazypass tag. For 6 times out of 10 trips through the M50 toll area, their eazypass tag wasn’t recognised by the eflow equipment, and 6 non-payment lettera were sent out. The other 4 times, the eazypass tag was recognised successfully and money was deducted from the eazypass account. On some days, the tag was recognised in the morning, but not in the evening. On other occasions, it was recognised going southbound on one day, but not the next day. So, the tag works – and the tag position is correct within the car, yet more than half the time, they’re getting the non-payment letters.

As some of you may know, I like a conspiracy theory as much as the next person, maybe more than most, but I think this deserves to be looked at. Basically the NRA are working both sides of this M50 tolling fiasco. I can imagine that the temptation to playing both sides of the game and gaining an unfair advantage might be hard to ignore.

The NRA, through their company eflow, are providing the hardware and software required to manage the scanning and billing of cars and lorrys that pass through their toll area. Therefore, all toll tag and service providers must interact with eflow to ensure that their tags are suitable to be used, that their customers are identified going through the toll area, and that the correct companies are notified of charges incurred by their customers for such trips across the M50.

Yet eflow also provides a service in competition to all of those 3rd party toll tag service providers. eflow provides it’s own tag service, as well as providing the number recognition and pay as you go service.

Hypothetically then, consider if the part of eflow responsible for identifying tags and number plates of cars sets their systems up to only sometimes identify all of the 3rd party tags of the eflow tag competitors. By doing this, many more non-eflow tag holders would get the toll overdue paper work and notification of non-payment of toll letters than really should do.

And hypothetically, every time a driver who has a non-eflow tag gets such an unwarranted letter, they’re then forced to ring the part of eflow responsible for billing to get the mess sorted out. And, hypothetically, no matter what the user says to eflow about their competitor tag being set up correctly, and working some of the time but not all of the time, the eflow customer service people maintain that the problem isn’t on their side, but on the side of the competitor tag provider.

And then, hypothetically, the 3rd party tag provider such as eazypass is now so overrun with calls from irate customers who are getting non-payment notifications through no fault of their own that they don’t even answer calls to their own customer service number.

How long then, hypothetically, before the user of the competitor tag decides that it’s not actually worth their while suffering all the grief they’re getting from having to deal with both their own tag service provider and with eflow customer service all the time and can’t be bothered with all the hassle – especially having to follow up regularly to ensure they’re not stung for the extra non-payment of toll fines?

How long, hypothetically then, before the user of the M50 who originally signed up with an eflow tag competitor decides to make their lives easier and just signs up for the eflow tag itself and cut their losses and save themselves the hassle?

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