Chicago News

Class-action suit cites Ventra, CTA issues

Friday, October 11, 2013

Problems with the new CTA fare system Ventra have triggered legal action.

A class action lawsuit has been filed - citing numerous issues with the new Ventra cards.

Dave Kenger is a CTA bus rider, who used to have a Chicago Card Plus. Now, he has a new Ventra card. When checking his account covering the last couple weeks, he discovered that he'd been charged twice for a single ride. But more interestingly, he found that on September 26, within a span of 70 seconds, he was billed six times for calling the CTA customer call center - a total of $8.50. Not a lot of money, but Kenger's phone log shows no record of those calls, and even if he did make them, you are not to be charged for making calls to the customer service center.

I thought there had to be some mistake. I tried to get someone on the phone, and it was my second mistake," Kenger said.

"We're not talking about a lot of money in terms of one person, but if you multiply it by 100,000 to 200,000 people who might be using this Ventra card, we're talking about an awful lot of money," said Kenger attorney Dan Edelman.

So, aggravated that he's not been able to get answers to numerous calls and email follow-ups, Kenger and his attorney Dan Edelman have now filed a federal lawsuit against Cubic Corporation - overseeing Ventra - and the CTA, alleging breach of contract and consumer fraud. It's the first legal action over Ventra frustration.

"This is a service thing. It isn't going to be stopped unless somebody steps forward and takes action and files a lawsuit," Kenger said. "I question how, what was done to test it before putting it into service. It looked like the beta testing is being done on the public," said Kenger.

The suit comes as many commuters face a series of problems related to switching to the new payment system.

On Wednesday night, the CTA reversed its decision Monday to cut off some fare payment options.

If you have a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus, you can once again load money on it at a station. The CTA apologized, saying that it is unacceptable that riders are being left on hold.

How the Ventra rollout is going depends on who you ask. The private contractor that runs Ventra, Cubic, continues to be flooded with calls. Around noon Wednesday, wait times for a Ventra operator were so long, ABC7 was kicked off immediately.

"Ventra should have been prepared for that and was not prepared for that, and for that we absolutely apologize to our customers," said CTA spokesperson Brian Steele. "They should not have experienced the call times, the wait times they had on some of those calls."

In light of those problems, CTA says Ventra will triple the number of call center operators.

More than 100,000 Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers who represent the bulk of the callers are being re-emailed a username and temporary password to register the card online.

Sales of magnetic strip fare cards resumed after they were cut off two days earlier. And Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers will once again be able to load money onto their cards at stations.

"Given some of the issues we've seen, we want to provide that as another option for customers while this really intense transition period is ongoing," said Steele.

CTA suggests if you don't yet have a Ventra card, buy one at a station, vendor or on the Ventra website. That way, you can bypass the call center and register online. You will, however, need to talk to a real person to transfer any balance from a Chicago Card to Ventra.

Ironically, CTA said it made the move to Ventra in part to give riders a better customer service experience. The agency said they are confident that with the changes Wednesday the transition to Ventra will be smoother.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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