$7.90 fee could lead to class action suit
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to interpret state law for a Federal Court, which is hearing a challenge to a five percent convenience fee Florida’s largest provider of red-light cameras has been adding to red light violations.
If the court sides with red-light runners, millions could be on the table for refunds.
There are just over 500 active red-light cameras in Florida.
Notices of violation sent to motorists cost a flat $158, but American Traffic Solutions, which provides cameras to 31 jurisdictions, has also been adding a five percent fee to anyone using a credit card to pay.
South Florida resident Steven Pincus has chosen to fight the $7.90 add-on.
His attorney Bret Lusskin argued to the Florida Supreme Court it’s not allowed by state law.
“State law says you can not add any additional fees, fines, surcharges, or costs,” Lusskin said.
But Justices seemed skeptical.
“The choice to make an electronic payment is entirely voluntary,” Chief Justice Charles Canady said.
American Traffic Solutions suggested paying the fee offered value.
“I don’t need to get my stamp, I don’t need to get my money order if that’s what it’s going to take. It’s done, and so there is the real benefit here,” ATS attorney Joseph Lang said.
ATS did admit it does make a profit on the fee, even after paying credit card processing costs.
After Tuesday’s hearing, their attorney declined to explain.
So why did the case get to federal court and now Florida’s high court over a $7.90 fee?
“The amount of the fine is $158. That’s all they should be getting charged. And I think it’s unfair for a company to be overcharging people in this way,” Lusskin said.
If the Florida Supreme Court rules the fee was illegal it could lead to a class-action suit, in which $30 million could eventually be available to some of the 8 million people cited so far by red-light cameras.
Plaintiffs argue the profit from the fee is wrongful enrichment.
The court took the case under advisement.
It could take weeks or months to send the case back to Federal court, which could allow the case to go forward, or decide there is no case at all.
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