“We continue to check whether the identifiers are not working correctly and can no longer be used and need to be replaced. It is important that you rectify this situation. Replace your identifier(s) here”. This is the email that hundreds of users of Via Verde – Brisa’s company – have received in recent times, although in most cases their identification data has no problem whatsoever.
The practice angers many users and complaints on the Portal da Queixa have skyrocketed. “Yes, the number of complaints has increased significantly,” confirms the Portal da Queixa ao i, which states that a total of 792 complaints have been registered this year addressed to Via Verde – it should be noted that between November 1 and December 27, 620 complaints came in. “In November of this year, 279 complaints were recorded and in December alone, until the 27th, 341 complaints had already been shared,” says the Portal da Queixa, adding that it gives an average of 13 complaints per day. Until October, the maximum number of complaints received per month was 27, with June being the month with the fewest complaints: 11.
When asked about the main reason for the complaints submitted, the Portal da Queixa confirms that 73% of them are related to identifiers, a total of about 500 complaints. And he advises consumers to “always do research – before proceeding to change the identifiers they already have – to ensure they will make the best choice, based on sharing the experience of other consumers.”
“Via Verde emailed me saying my device was having issues so I could order a new one and avoid any inconvenience. I re-ordered without thinking about the situation and found out that they are ripping off customers. My device worked perfectly and was debited from my bank account.” The complaint is from António Soares, but it is one of many hundreds that appear on the Portal da Queixa or have reached the i.
“I received the email saying my identifier is not working correctly, but I go through tolls daily and I can guarantee the yellow light never blinked. The identifier works perfectly,” Manuel Pinto assured i.
Looking back at the Portal da Queixa, the criticisms pile up: “It is a shame for Via Verde to implement this ‘plan’ where the customer is almost ‘forced’ to change the paid identifiers to rented identifiers, with alleged ‘problems’ in the device. Suddenly all those devices broke except the rented one… Please be serious about how you got into this sad situation and review this new and unreasonable policy. Please don’t be ashamed anymore… respect the customers,” criticizes Marco Anacleto.
Chantal Costa also guarantees that she has no problem with the identifier: “Like many Via Verde customers, I receive successive emails stating – incorrectly – that my identifier is defective and needs to be replaced. I am a frequent user of car parks and an occasional user of tolls, and I have no problem reading the identification at the entrances and exits of barriers or tolls, nor collecting the amounts due,” she complained.
Questioned on this matter, an official Via Verde source tells me that “the company has no plans to change identifiers,” guaranteeing that “the process of changing the identifier only takes place when there are repeated errors (when the yellow lamp lights up ), either for customers with their own identifier, or for customers with a subscription and whose devices are owned by Via Verde”. And he adds that this is “a process that has been in place for many years and aims to protect customers, to ensure the security of financial transactions associated with highway crossings.”
I also tried to understand whether the customer is then not ‘obliged’ to conclude a new contract. “No, Via Verde maintains its service offering with three subscriptions that offer, for different services, three options to become a member; the subscription of a monthly amount, the payment of an annuity or the purchase of the identifier. Customers can freely choose from one of these three offers. Nothing has changed in our service,” the same source guarantees.
But there are many users who even accuse the Brisa company of attempted fraud, something Via Verde refuses, saying it “categorically rejects any allegation of fraud”, guaranteeing that “it will only contact the customer when a yellow light is appears at the toll crossing , indicating a potential problem”. And that the warning aims to “protect customers, bearing in mind that these are financial transactions whose security is essential”.
Only in most of the complaints submitted, users guarantee that no yellow light appeared for them and that the identifier always worked perfectly.
And it turns out that when we try to solve the problem, the link takes us to new subscription models. If you want, the user can buy an identification code, although there are no details about the price. But there is Deco Proteste, Via Verde said the identifier is on sale for 35 euros, for customers with an electronic statement. If the customer opts for the paper statement, the price of the identifier is 42 euros.
“We may be facing a scenario of unfair practices” Magda Canas, specialist in Legal Affairs at Deco Proteste, confirms, among other things, that they are aware of several situations where consumers “receive emails from Via Verde indicating that their identification data is not working correctly and that it cannot be used further. There is always a request for replacement”.
But, like some of the existing complaints, the specialist says that “these emails have only reached consumers who have purchased identifiers. Those who have already opted for the subscription do not report these kinds of problems.”
Magda Canas also adds that in the link in the email “there is no option to obtain an identifier under the same contractual terms as the previous one”, with three options appearing, but all with subscription “which goes against against what has already been stated by Via Verde, when I said that the last word belongs to each consumer”. And he shoots: “If this scenario is confirmed, we may be dealing with an unfair commercial practice”, adding that Via Verde assumed In the recent past it has been striving to expand its subscription model to the largest possible number of users, making it its more profitable business.
Despite the fact that there are still no figures on the number of complaints received, the Deco Proteste specialist suggests that “consumers contact Via Verde and ask to confirm the dates and places where the identifier supposedly failed. If the last one happened a long time ago and no yellow sign has been detected since then, they don’t have to replace the identifier in the first place, if they want to”.
And it is clear that “if there is evidence that the identifier works well and consumers have no intention of changing, they cannot be forced to”.
50 thousand exchanges in a month Ao i, the official source of Via Verde, indicates that last November “there was a volume of about 50,000 identification changes, resulting in about 150 complaints”. And, contrary to what happened with the Portal da Queixa, it says that this number is “lower than the October complaints and historically lower than the average of 2021 and 2022 in the light of replaced identification codes,” he guarantees.
A much higher number compared to the same month last year, in which only 12,000 identifiers were exchanged. However, Via Verde warns that “the figures are not directly comparable”, justifying that this year, with the end of the pandemic and with the new offer of Via Verde services, “there was a much greater growth in customers”. After all, in the first 11 months of last year Via Verde registered 370 thousand new subscribers and this year, until November, there were already 470 thousand. “There was also a break in the supply of identification codes in international markets that was only resolved at the end of October and that inflated the exchange of identification codes in November this year, and a lot, compared to the same month last year,” the same source of the Via justifies Verde to our newspaper.
Nevertheless, Via Verde has already exchanged 800,000 new identifiers, of which 30% (about 250,000) “refer to the prevention warnings launched by Via Verde after repeated passages with a yellow light”.
Changes Recall that it was early this year that Via Verde made some changes to its subscriptions.
For example, the Via Verde Leve and Via Verde Livre subscription rates disappeared and were replaced by new rates, more expensive than the previous ones. But Via Verde explains that they bring more services. Although the changes went into effect on January 5, the differences were not felt until early April, when the transition period ended.
The new packages are the Via Verde Autoestrada, which costs 5.75 euros per year or 49 cents per month and only includes access to toll payments.
This is followed by the Via Verde Mobilidade package, which will cost the driver 11.50 euros per year or 99 cents per month. This package contains what the old purchased identifiers also gave access to: tolls, parking, refueling, charging electric cars, among others. And finally, for those who use Viva Verde less, there is the Mobilidade Leve package that gives access to the same services as Via Verde Mobilidade, but is only charged in the months in which the service is used, with a cost of 1.25 euros in every month it is used.