We’re sure that this is something close to many people’s hearts, but perhaps not in a good way. It includes this writer, who has made it a point to not use Touch n Go for parking if there’s a surcharge involved. Not because I can’t afford the 20 sen, but why should I pay extra?

It’s a valid grouse, and we reached out to Touch n Go (TnG) for an explanation. The payments company acknowledges that there are many parking operators charging an extra 10% on top of parking fees for TnG users, and that it’s a long-running issue and famous complaint among users. Another big one is the 50 sen reload fee charged by outlets, but that’s for another day.

Back to the parking surcharge. When paying via TnG, you’re not taking a parking ticket or token, or using the autopay machine or cashier, so by right, you should pay less and not more? Here’s what TnG has to say.

“The reality is, the surcharge goes into the operation and maintenance of the TnG infrastructure. Very little of these charges go back to TnG. The charges cater for the maintenance cost and system upgrades, which are important aspects in maintaining an efficient and hassle-free parking system to customers. It is an agreed charge between the parking operators, building owners and Touch n Go, and the proceeds are shared by these parties at the applicable parking locations,” the company explains.

Officially, TnG states that “the additional charges serve as service fee for the extra convenience offered and to cover the maintenance and operation costs of the system, on top of the conventional ticketing system service.”

It is also pointed out that TnG users get to benefit from the convenience of not having to take a ticket (I occasionally leave it in the car and curse when it’s time to pay) and queue to pay, and that parking surcharges also apply to credit card payment, which is growing in acceptance in urban areas.

However, here’s some good news. TnG says that it has been working to add more TnG-enabled parking sites without surcharge. It’s work in progress, but no surcharge cashless parking sites have grown significantly in numbers over the years. It says that two years ago, 40 such sites existed – today, there are over 200 parking lots with TnG payment and no surcharge. For these sites, the additional costs are wholly managed by TnG. Let’s hope that this trend continues and major sites adopt this model.

Lastly, a side note regarding TnG “profiting” from our card and eWallet balances held by them. The company explains that “all monies reloaded by the users into the Touch n Go cards are not deposited into the TNGSB account. Instead, they are deposited into a trustee account and are owned by the owner/users of these Touch n Go cards.

“All payments to service providers (toll, rail, parking operators and retail merchants) are made directly from the trustee to the said service providers. The Touch n Go card merely acts as an electronic purse to provide the convenience of speed and security when making everyday micro-payments,” TnG says, adding that the company is also bound by the Unclaimed Money Act 1965 (2006 amendment) whereby all unused prepaid balances due to inactivity of transaction for more than seven years are required to be returned to the Accountant General’s Department.