Transurban denies price-gouging in cases of five-figure fines

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — After WTOP profiled two drivers facing bills totaling $30,000 for unpaid trips on the 495 Express Lanes, the toll operator of the lanes is defending itself against charges of price gouging.

Transurban took Toni Cooley and Jim Diller to court last week after both refused to pay fees and civil penalties. Transurban charged Cooley more than $10,000; Diller, more than $20,000, in fines and penalties.

In Fairfax County General District Court, both argued that the administrative fees and civil penalties were illegal under Virginia law.

Both traveled on the 495 Express Lanes without realizing their E-ZPass accounts were out of money. Each fixed the issue afterwards with E-ZPass and offered to write a check for the tolls. Cooley took 11 unpaid trips and Diller took 23 trips in the span of two weeks.

Under Virginia law, Transurban can charge drivers $50 in civil penalties for the first offense, $250 for the second, $500 for the third, $1,000 for the fourth and any thereafter.

For Cooley, the civil penalties added up to $8,800; for Diller, more than $20,000.

“If you look at the statute that defines this,

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