Honourable thing for Sanral to consider the concerns made by different stakeholders on the issue. Public pressure is effective. Picture: Gallo Images
Road users who have registered for the e-tolling system will have to re-register, after Sanral changed the terms and conditions, the DA said on Wednesday.
"They [Sanral] indicated that the new set of regulations will be consumer friendly. It is therefore essential for everyone to be registered under the new conditions," Democratic Alliance transport spokesman Neil Campbell said.
This meant that those who had already bought e-tags would have to re-register, he said.
Following a lengthy conciliation hearing presided over by the National Consumer Commission (NCC), Campbell said several changes would be made to the SA National Roads Agency Limited's current terms and conditions.
"It only makes better economic sense for Sanral to re-start the registration process under revised terms and conditions. We have managed to negotiate on the current terms and got an indication of revised terms and conditions to be implemented. We are confident that provisions that contravened the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) will be struck down," he said.
Registration for the process had been low, with only around 320,000 vehicle owners signing up for the scheme, in a province where four million vehicles were anticipated to be on the system. The new toll regulations were expected in two weeks.
"I think it is an honourable thing for Sanral to consider the concerns made by different stakeholders on the issue. Public pressure is effective."
Campbell said the hearing had been credible. Most points raised were interrogated, sparking optimism of favourable settlement.
The DA was pleased by Sanral's attendance of Wednesday's hearings. The meeting was the third attempt to get the roads agency to sit around a table with the political party and the consumer body.
The hearings were a result of the DA's complaint regarding the toll system.
"Despite this, we still believe that the best interests for the consumer will be served by the scrapping of the entire (tolling) system."
Sanral was not immediately available for comment.
Earlier, farmers' union TAU SA voiced concern over the impact toll fees would have on food prices. Union president Louis Meintjes said farmers already had their backs against the wall with rising fuel prices and higher vehicle registration and licence fees.
The additional burden of toll fees on Gauteng freeways would put farmers in an impossible position, he told Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele in a letter released to the media.
"It becomes clear that primary producers of food are confronted by input cost increases which cannot be recovered from income received on markets."
Meintjes asked the minister for a personal conversation to reach a solution, not just about the toll fees, but also about other transport-related issues that affected farmers.
"Bearing in mind that food security should be regarded as a strategic national asset, the question arises whether the time has not come to reconsider issues which could be managed in the national interest which would contribute to ensuring the maintenance of productivity and the interest of the people."
TAU SA joined a growing list of groups opposed to the introduction of the tolls. The Congress of SA Trade Unions recently led a march in protest over them, saying the costs would cripple poor people and small businesses already struggling with increasing fuel prices.
Earlier on Wednesday, Sanral said it would soon issue revised terms and conditions for road users registered for Gauteng's electronic tolling.
"We believe that these new terms and conditions will allay fears consumers may have," Sanral said.
Information on what these might be was not immediately available. The new terms and conditions were based on public concerns and recommendations, Sanral said. They would apply to all who had already registered or planned to register as users. Registered users would not be disadvantaged.
"This decision is a demonstration that we take the concerns and input of the public seriously. We also continue to co-operate and engage with the National Consumer Commission on this matter."
Sanral reiterated that it needed users' banking details only if they chose a specific payment option.
The Gauteng e-tolls are an open road tolling system with overhead gantries fitted with cameras to read vehicles' number plates as they pass underneath,. Tolling was scheduled to start on April 30.
Payment options included having fees deducted from credit card accounts with top-up thresholds set by account holders, or by pre-paying and topping up via e-tags mounted on the vehicle's windshield.
Visitors to Gauteng could register in advance for day passes. Users who did not register would be invoiced with a due date for payment.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced in his Budget in February that toll fees would be capped at R550 a month. -Sapa