A clerical error led to 79,000 people being incorrectly billed administrative fees — sometimes of as much as $50 — in addition to the tolls they owned during the coronavirus pandemic.

All of New Jersey’s toll roads pulled toll collectors and stopped collecting cash payments for nearly two months as the state shut down many in-person offices and private operations to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Drivers without E-ZPass were told to drive through toll collection lanes, and that they'd be sent bills for the towes they owed.

Any bills had to be paid within 30 days to avoid administrative fees.

But Conduent, the contractor that operates back office operations for the New Jersey E-ZPass Group, failed to send 79,000 first notices, Turnpike spokesman Tom Feeney told New Jersey 101.5. Instead, those 79.000 people got second notices, with fees slapped on them.

In all, 3.1 million people were billed in lieu of cash payments during the seven-week period when cash payments were suspended.

"Anyone who paid the administrative fee will have the money refunded and anyone who hasn't paid yet is going to have that administrative fee, whatever the amount, removed from their account automatically," Feeney said.

The amount of the fee depends on the specific agency governing the toll road, he said.

It could take up to a week for the changes to be seen on an online account, Feeney said. Once that work is complete, customers will be able to log onto ezpassnj.com with their violation and license plate numbers to pay the tolls they actually owe.

Feeney said customers may have had a difficult time reaching customer service because staffing had been down due to the pandemic. The Turnpike Authority is closely monitoring the company’s efforts to return to full staffing.

"We regret any anxiety this mistake might have caused our customers," Turnpike Authority Executive Director John Keller said.

The agencies affected are the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (governing the Turnpike as well as the Garden State Parkway), the Burlington County Bridge Commission, the Cape May Bridge Commission, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, the Delaware River Port Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority.

CBS Philly was the first to report the issue with the administrative fee.

A class-action lawsuit alleges the $50 administrative fees charged by the Turnpike Authority are excessive and amount to an unfair tax. The Authority has previously said the $50 fine for E-ZPass violations, which was doubled in 2011, was needed to keep up with rising violation processing costs.

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