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Premier calls for accountability in eTag debacle
Central News Agency
2014-01-16 11:27 PM
Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Premier Jiang Yi-huah Thursday called for Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co., which runs Taiwan's new freeway toll system, to "take responsibility" for the glitch-plagued rollout of the eTag system, his strongest-worded public remarks on the network's problems. He also instructed Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih to penalize the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau for its part in setting up the system, which has drawn numerous reports of erroneously charging motorists repeatedly since the dashboard tags were launched Dec. 30 last year. When motorists wanted to check the fees they had been charged, they found the eTag application was down for days earlier this month, a problem initially attributed to hacking by mistake. Calls to customer service often went unanswered. Amid public dissatisfaction, Jiang said the government should be more active in handling matters of public interests. The government should not just offer rebukes, but require those making mistakes to take accountability in order to regain public trust. Freeway bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen later in the day pledged to do his best to serve the public and said that he has asked the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) to mete out punishments over the problems. The MOTC has not ruled out the possibility of terminating its contract with Far Eastern, but it would be difficult and require lengthy legal proceedings to reach terms agreeable to both sides, Minister Yeh said. Even if Far Eastern is found to have violated its contract with the government, the contractor would be able to claim a period of amnesty to make improvements or possibly even compensation from the government, he said. Yeh reminded Far Eastern that it is a service-orientated company, and forcing the MOTC to take action against it would cast it in a negative light in the eyes of its customers. The Far Eastern group also operates textile, retail businesses and banking. Also Thursday, the Customers' Foundation asked for an explanation from Far Eastern for the myriad problems and urged the government to allow a second operator to take part in the system to avoid a market monopoly. The eTag freeway system replaced older toll booths the end of last year by using dashboard-mounted tags that are scanned when each car travels along the freeway. It is run by Far Eastern under a build, operate and transfer (BOT) model. Far Eastern's contract runs through 2025. (By Yang Shu-ming and Maia Huang)
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