Cancer battler's $40k toll debt threatens her business
AN IPSWICH woman who racked-up $40,000 in toll debt while she battled cancer risks having her small business put into liquidation to pay down the huge fines.
In 2015, two tumours were found in Kylie Jones's ovaries. One was found to be cancerous.
With her mind focused on beating cancer, Ms Jones's bills quickly piled up - $18,521 in tolls.
"We weren't paying anything when I got sick because we had one income and we had to run a house and business," she said.
"It (tolls) was $5 but because it took me a while to pay it I had charges on top."
About one year after her operation she received a shock after realising those unpaid tolls had been sent to the State Penalties Enforcement Register and had doubled to $40,000.
Last month, Ms Jones received a letter notifying her she was being taken to court in an effort to put her business into liquidation to recoup the costs.
She said Transurban, the operators of toll roads, had offered to halve her initial $18,000 toll bill - but she said SPER would still seek the full $40,000.
The mother of two said tolls were the last thing on her mind as she battled to recover from her debilitating sickness.
"Tolls were nowhere," she said.
"When you have your life put in front of you...I can't even explain it.
"The thing that really threw me with this whole situation was when it all opened up. It was just such a stressful horrible time and the whole thing was so traumatic."
Ms Jones said the staggering debt increase was due to exorbitant fees and admin charges.
After the operation, Ms Jones returned to work, driving through tolls without payment.
She said her family's financial situation was tight as she recovered from the costly surgery.
Ms Jones accessed her superannuation to fast-track the operation through the private system.
"I was rated as a category one patient but it was a long wait," she said.
"We couldn't afford it because I had to get back to work.
"We didn't know how long it (tumour) had been there, how fast it was growing."
The operation cost $16,000 and additional bills were put to the side while Ms Jones got on top of her finances.
"It was a year later when you sit down and get a reality check," she said.
Transurban Queensland group executive Sue Johnson said there were a range of measures people could take if they were facing financial hardship.
"We don't want to see unpaid tolls turn into fines, which is why we have programs in place to help people before their tolls escalate," she said.
"We have payment plans, first time forgiveness and financial hardship initiatives in place for customers who need them.
"We have also been working with governments to amend legislation and simplify and reduce fees for unpaid tolls."
Ms Jones said Transurban and SPER did not show compassion.
"They want to dig you a hole and bury you in it," she said.
"What they're asking is ridiculous, it's highway robbery."