SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A surprise announcement came Monday in the first day of the class action trial against FasTrak. The public agencies that run the system made an about face. Citing reports by 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney, the trial took a dramatic turn with long held secrets revealed in open court -- a victory for the public's right to know.
Here's what the Bay Area Toll Authority had been trying to hide: If you are sent a toll invoice or violation notice and it can't be delivered to you, FasTrak will stop trying to collect the toll and the penalties.
This is a huge change. This class action lawsuit claims the Authority has been hyper aggressive in in slapping penalties and in collections.
You may remember that when the Golden Gate Bridge did away with toll-takers in 2013, drivers without FasTrak were supposed to be sent a bill. This lawsuit says many of those drivers never got them, and were charged fines -- sometimes in the thousands of dollars. Many also could not register their cars until they paid it.
On Monday in open court, an attorney for the Bay Area Toll Authority said 7 On Your Side's stories questioning secrecy had unfairly put FasTrak in a harsh light, so the attorney withdrew the motion to ban the public from the courtroom during discussion of those public policies. And in opening statements, the veil of secrecy dropped.
The toll authorities revealed that if toll invoices and violation notices are returned to FasTrak as "undeliverable,'' FasTrak will stop trying to collect the toll and the penalties.
7 On Your Side asked FasTrak for more details, it declined.
Class-action attorney Adam Gutride says his case is all about unfair penalties -- but the policy may go too far.
"The policies should be designed in a way where they try to get the tolls that are owed and find the people who need to pay the tolls,'' Gutride said. "Not what they were doing, which was keep racking up penalties and refusing to refund them, which is what this case is all about, and not what they are doing now which is to cease their efforts to actually collect the tolls."
The Bay Area Toll Authority said it would not comment until after the trial.
Now FasTrak can change this policy at any time, so don't look at this as a get-out-of-jail free, and this doesn't mean it's okay to cross a bridge without paying and hope you get away with it.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.