407 ETR hires customer service ombud

TORONTO – The private 407 ETR highway north of Toronto has appointed a customer service ombudsman to better deal with highway users’ complaints as well as broker resolutions in payment disputes between the company and customers.

Denise Peltier, who has business customer service experience within the telecommunications and transportation industries, has been named to the position. The appointment of an ombudsman is part of the ETR’s settlement with the province last year.

The Ontario Liberal government had spent years in court trying to wrestle away control of highway tolls and other operations — something it had promised during the party’s election campaign. But after losing virtually every single court and third party arbitrators’ decision during that time, the government was forced to settle on an agreement eariler this year, which recognized the company’s right to set tolls, but also required 407 ETR to abide by a number of provisions, including hiring an ombudsman and offering discounted rates for some regular 407 travellers.

407 ETR says it already has a dispute resolution process for the licence plate denial process and other customer service matters. However, “customers who feel that their issue has not been resolved through these channels can now have their issue reviewed by the ombudsman.”

407 ETR has gotten a bad rap for its customer service since it bought the 108-km highway from the former Tory government in the late ’90s. Many customers have complained for years that there was no effective way of disputing errors the company made on toll invoices.

However, ETR says it has drastically improved on that front even before Peltier’s appointment, noting that it has reduced escalated complaints by 39 percent in the first quarter of 2006 compared to the same period in 2004 and customer satisfaction has averaged above 80 percent in the last two years.

“407 ETR wants to ensure customers are treated fairly and reasonably,” Peltier said. “I look forward to working with customers and 407 ETR staff to address concerns quickly in an unbiased and impartial manner.”

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