Since FY19-20, Rs58,188.53 crore were collected as user fees at the toll plazas of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the Union government told the Rajya Sabha. Further, since January 2020, about 1.25mn (million) users have received refunds for incorrect deductions by FASTag, In a written reply, Nitin Gadkari, Union minister of road transport and highways, says, “Over 4.59 crore FASTags have been issued till 31 January 2022. As of 5 February 2022, around 12.5 lakh refund cases have been facilitated to FASTag users for incorrect deductions since January 2020.” From April 2019 to January 2022, a total of Rs58,188.53 crore is collected as user fees through FASTag on national highways, the minister says.
According to Mr. Gadkari, under the FASTag program, refunds are processed after scrutiny and validation by the respective issuer bank, based on the evidence or supporting details provided by stakeholders, such as fee plaza operators, concessionaires, acquirer banks, and system integrators. FASTag is a device that employs radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly while the vehicle is in motion.
To reduce or eliminate any incorrect deduction via FASTag at user fee plazas, NHAI undertook various measures, including near-real-time processing of FASTag transactions with the implementation of application programming interface (API)-based protocol (interface control document -ICD 2.5). “This shall enable instant SMS to FASTag users on any transaction carried out at fee plazas on national highways,” the minister says in a written reply.
Dr. Amar Patnaik, a member of Parliament (MP), had asked for information on toll collection through FASTag. Replying to one of the MP’s questions, Mr. Gadkari says, as of 5 February 2022, about 80% of the FASTag transactions are processed as per API-ICD 2.5 specifications. Earlier in March last year, We had highlighted how FASTag user complaints were not getting resolved. Advocate Pravin Wategaonkar, a Mumbai-based activist, who has filed several cases against the tolls on highways, had told us that the dispute of the wrong deduction at toll plazas arises due to delay in receiving the transaction SMS.
“In my personal experience, though, FASTag toll deducted SMS is received about 20-30 minutes after crossing the toll booth. If it is instantly received, it could be shown to the booth operator as proof of deduction. This would pre-empt any dispute in the first place,” he had said.
As reported by us, various agencies involved in toll collection through FASTag earn 4% as a program management fee. “To implement electronic toll collection (ECS) through FASTag, a program management fee (percentage of ECS transaction value) of 1.50%, 1.25%, 0.25%, and 1% was approved for the issuer bank, acquirer bank, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and Indian Highways Management Co Ltd (IHMCL), respectively, for the period up to 31 March 2021,” Mr. Gadkari had told the upper house in December 2021.