Are SPER Unethical Debt Collecting for a Private Business?

Interested to hear people's opinions or personal experiences dealing with SPER. I think it is very unethical that they are debt collecting on behalf of a private company (Toll) and have the power to take away people's licenses and garnish their accounts for non-government fines. Missing a $2 Toll can balloon to thousands of dollars through Toll's excessive administration fees and then the government's infringement fine on top of that.

My story - I have a good friend that owes >$45k in SPER fines. SPER will not cut a deal and he can only get his license back when he has repaid it in full. The majority of these fines are for toll evasion but this only accounts to <$100 in toll fees. The rest is administration fees and government infringement fines on top of the tolls. He needs his license for work so is still driving but will almost never be able to pay the fine in full. Will probably end up in jail.

What prompted this is an article in the Brisbane Times today:

Poll Options

  • 8
    Yes, they are scoundrels
  • 19
    No, that seems ok to me
  • 9
    Bikies to take over SPER debt collection

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  • can you explain how they have taken away his license? Is his driving license now suspended?

    • Yep

    • -2

      SPER use threats of EXTORTION to make you pay up. Suspending your drivers license is one way they do this . What other debt collection agency can criminally use threats of extortion to make you pay for often unlawful traffic fines that are sent to SPER illegally.

      • +1

        SPER are a government department, and they are not extorting anyone. And traffic fines aren't unlawful, even for you sovereign citizen types.

  • +1

    He needs his license for work.

    Probably best he pays the toll, like everyone else.

    Not very sensible to let it balloon out, and then whinging about it.

    • It's ridiculous that this can happen. Taking away a person's ability to work will not let them repay fines. It forces them into committing crimes (driving with suspended licence) in order to pay

      • +1

        Sorry, but they had the opportunity to pay the fine. Suspending the licence wasn't till much later.

        • That doesn't make it any less ridiculous

  • +4

    So your good friend is complaining that the law finally caught up with him avoiding fares for ages? … and he needs a vehicle for work?

    … and he's now driving around unlicenced?

    … and he's now put out by administration charges for people to chase him?


    No sympathy here.

    SPER also has the power to put a security interest on the vehicle on the PPSR. He might find his asset impounded.

    If your "good friend" can't pay the > $45,000 liability back, and cannot work due to this, then perhaps he should look at bankruptcy. Provided that the SPER debt is provable in bankruptcy (which I think it likely is, but you should nonetheless check).

    • +1

      Just a note - my example isn't really the focus of this forum post. It was just an example of how small fines can balloon out of control. Yes, my mate is stupid and should have just paid his fines. I am not looking for comment on that. My question is whether it is ethical for the government to debt collect for private companies.

      • Why do think it is unethical?

        • +5

          Because I am paying taxes for the government to chase up outstanding funds for a private company.

        • -2

          SPER use threats of EXTORTION and BLACKMAIL to make you pay up . That is a CRIMINAL ACTIVITY . Please tell me what other corporation or debt collector can do this . Suspending your drivers license is EXTORTION.

      • They probably have an agreement. It's not unusual these days to have government/private partnerships and divide up the work.

      • +2

        Your friend presumably received a broad range of notices at various stages of the process - he's clearly ignored any avenues to correct this situation as they have occurred. Clearly fines have then stacked on top of that - but with $45,000 in penalties, he has ignored many opportunities to address this. There is clearly no process for arbitration between your friend and Toll - so the government has intervened.

        Unfortunately, the debt is clearly enforceable - so the government (i.e. SPER) has taken enforcement action. This seems entirely appropriate and ethical. The government is managing the process as an administrator - this is a basic role and function, and not substantially different to enforcing a financial judgement for a municipal parking fine that has remained unpaid.

        • Not ethical though

        • -1

          SPER -Threats of EXTORTION is actually a criminal activity (taking ways your drivers license ) if you don't pay , so how can anyone see this as lawful ?

        • @GovtCorruption: Because it's LITERALLY written into the LAW. And telling you what the PENALTIES are for not paying a government debt is not EXTORTION.

          I TOO can capitalise RANDOM words!

  • +4

    Not paying for tolls is unethical.

    • -3

      tolls are unethical

  • +4 gives a perspective of what occurs before SPER gets involved.

    I saw a figure of $52 million of unpaid tolls in one article.

    The legislature (being constituted by our duly appointed politicians in Queensland) has clearly given SPER a mandate to combat a perceived significant problem.

    Toll revenue helps ensure that we continue to receive the benefit of further investment into roads in circumstances where the government is incapable of delivering.

    Your mate is part of the problem.

      • that - well put.
  • why cant he pay the toll?
    its not to pay for something you use.

    • I think his view is that he owes the Toll + Infringement fines. The problem is the crazy administration fees that Toll have lumped on top of the original toll fee to make it well in excess of the original fee. This by far the biggest number in the equation.

      • +1

        Perhaps the crazy administration fee is to discourage people cheating the system.

      • It would be interesting to know a breakdown, but chances are, it's all fair.

        I'm sure there would be lots of stages which would cost $$$ to pay for HR (ie. collections staff, legal fees, court fees, etc), as well as all the fiddly stuff like stamps.

      • If he paid the toll in the first place, he wouldn't have any infringement fines. With the beepers, it's not like you need to stop off at booths to pay in cash anymore.

    • -1

      We have already paid for the roads thru rego , petrol taxes , stamp duty , fines . The state govt sold our roads and now we have to pay to use these roads again . Unlawful . How much of our toll money goes towards paying the actual toll ? The rest goes to the company profit . Transurban are now an AUST monopoly with aims to make us pay a toll for every road we use ! This company is an American based company - we are being screwed .

  • +2

    As a proud South Australian, I disagree with the concept of toll roads …

    Sure, the state government can charge a toll to recoup the cost of building the road when it is mandatory and un-affordable …

    Private company building a road makes it a private road, private company imposing fines as a non-government organisation also seems like a legal grey area …

    Government following up on private debt, without going through the legal system for a court ordered civil claim also seems quite dubious …

    But to be a bit more helpful, tell your friend to elect to be prosecuted, chat with a lawyer, come up with a hard-luck story, get in front of a judge and the <100$ in fines will probably be reduced to <100$ + court costs (around 130$ extra) with no loss of license …

    • +1

      Have you been living under a rock? Governments (sorry, gum mints) have been outsourcing infrastructure projects for decades, e.g. the Sydney airport train stations. There has not been the clean separation between public and private you imagine for ages.

      • Except in the labor dominated state of SA … I really didn't enjoy the tolls in NSW … or the tap on / tap off public transport …

        Where as in SA, all of our roads are free to use, our public transport is just pay to get on, private companies get paid to do a job and have a contract to complete by a certain time …

        The down side, they have no consideration for state debt, that will be the liberal governments problem, when they eventually get into power :)

        • The Opal system isn't relevant. It's just a fare collection method. Both public and private transport operators use it.

        • Yes they are free to use which is why Adelaide's road infrastructure is at least 10 years behind where it should be (it was 20 years before the South Road upgrades and them finally getting rid of the ridiculous 1 way motorway down south).

      • +1

        Look what that did to Melbourne trains, Centrelink job networks. Private companies operating public services are a drain on the system. It's what I think of whenever I hear the words dole bludger

        • +2

          It's what it is. The OP is trying to divert the discussion away from the story of his friend ignoring payment notices with a political discussion and you took the bait.

        • @greenpossum: what the op wants to talk about is still a political discussion

    • -2

      On mass we should all stop paying our tolls to this off shore company …. it is really another tax imposed illegally against us. The State Govt sold what we already owned . What did we get for that sale , less tax NO , cheaper fuel NO , cheaper rego NO. Nothing YES .

  • +2

    Am I reading the Brisbane Times article correctly? The lady says she had 100 fines that accumulated? "I now owe 4000 because of this … 100 worth of fines are now 4000. What a joke."

    Even if the math is wrong, she would have needed ~67 fines at $1.49 each to incur $100 of original debt. Um, that's a lot of evasions.

    Just pay your goddamn tolls as you get them. Geez.
    Whilst I think tolls stink, there isn't much I can do about them (except avoid toll roads). I can't understand why all toll users don't get an eTag so it just becomes set and forget.

  • What are these tolls you speak of ?
    I do live in South Australia :)

    • Cheeky git :p

  • Do you know that if the person with the fines can have a reason to go into various forms of rehabilitation then the Govt will remove $1000 of state debt (the fines) per month. I believe this can be negotiated to have even higher amounts removed too. My sister racked up $16k in driving related fines over a few months and got them quickly wiped by showing she needed rehabilitation (for getting so many she was deemed not in control of her life) and then doing some rehab. I have another relative who did the same for a smaller amount ($3000) and got it wiped. This is in NSW, not sure about other states.

    And if the person involved is on Centrelink benefits, the maximum they have to pay is $15 a week towards repaying (using CentrePay), they cannot be chased for any more than that. NOTE THAT THIS WILL RETURN THE DRIVER'S LICENSE TO ACTIVE. Call OSR (if in NSW), tell them you'd like to pay via CentrePay (if on Govt benefits), then they will contact the Roads and Maritime Service straight away to reactivate the license.

    And were there any other circumstances, like the first the person knew about this was a $45k bill? I have seen this happen too, where someone changes address and doesn't update their records. You simply do not get a bill. The govt assumes you are ignoring and it starts to rack up and your license gets suspended. Even for smoking a cigarette at a train station your license will get suspended if you don't pay the fine within the allocated time, or put it on CentrePay.

    Seems this SPER thing is not NSW as I've never heard of it (I'm from NSW), so no idea if other states give you all the easy outs that NSW does. They seem to focus here on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

    • I'm not 100% up to date on legal tender, and I understand you can't make restrictions on settling debts, but if payment methods are clear before accruing the debt, I'd hope that wouldn't be a loop hole.

      Guy is just being difficult. He can arrange a website and a go fund me page, but he can't pay his tolls electronically?

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