'Vulnerable' single mum hit with $30,000 bill for unpaid tolls

·2-min read

A single mother from Sydney who was grappling with a family member's death owed over $30,000 in unpaid tolls.

The mum's story is just one of the many submissions made to the NSW Parliament's Road tolling regimes inquiry, which is investigating the state's excessive road tolls.

One of the case studies in the report was a woman only known as Fina, a single mum who lives in social housing on the outskirts of Sydney.

"She is unemployed and had been struggling with mental health issues after a family bereavement," the case study said.

"Fina was unable to manage her day-to-day affairs. She received a number of toll notices, but did not pay them." 

A mother from NSW incurred more than $30,000 debt for not paying her toll fine. Source: AAP
A mother from NSW incurred more than $30,000 debt for not paying her toll fine. Source: AAP

After Fina received a Local Court Examination Notice, she attended her local Legal Aid office and found the judgement entered against her amounted to over $30,000.

The mother had no idea legal action was taken against her.

She did not receive a statement of claim or any notice saying a default judgement had been entered.

Legal Aid found only about $8000 of the judgement debt was related to the unpaid tolls.

The rest was administration fees and legal costs.

"We applied to have the judgement set aside and eventually settled with the toll debt collection agency," the case study said.

In the executive summary submitted for the inquiry, Legal Aid NSW said there have been "many vulnerable clients" who faced significant debt due to toll road usage.

Around $22,000 of the mother's debt wasn't even related to her toll debt. Source: Getty Images
Around $22,000 of the mother's debt wasn't even related to her toll debt. Source: Getty Images

"Legal Aid NSW frequently sees clients in crisis who have debts of over $10,000. It is common for approximately two thirds of this debt to consist of administration fees, and one third toll fees," the submission said.

"This is because where a toll road user is travelling without an e-tag, each trip incurs a $10 fee when a toll notice is issued. Up to two notices can be issued for each trip."

The submission said the debt is often accrued when other aspects of a person's life is in crisis, with some clients who are victims of family and domestic violence or struggling with mental health issues.

"Legal Aid NSW is concerned that the current regime does not respond appropriately to people whose lives are in crisis, and have accrued, or are accruing, significant debt as a result of toll road usage," the submission said.

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