All relevant civil society organisations representing Gauteng motorists knew about e-tolling and the user-pay principle, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Tuesday.
"Civil society knew what was happening and informed their members. It is perfectly clear they knew what was at stake," said David Unterhalter, for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
"[They] stood by for years as construction took place... No one was lulled into some sense of security. They could see the upgrades."
The Constitutional Court has overturned an interim order that e-tolling of Gauteng freeways be put on hold.
However, the High Court is still hearing a full review of e-tolling, which it ordered, on 28 April, had to be done before e-tolling could be introduced.
Unterhalter told the court no one asked questions while construction was taking place, but waited until the tariffs were announced in February 2011.
He said no concerns were raised to Sanral until the tariffs were released, even though construction started years earlier.
"[It] seems like they were under a spell by the 'sterile' notice: that is the conspiracy suggested by my learned friend," he told the court.
"They knew there was a user-pay principle to fund the tolls... They chose to wait, and there are consequences."
Unterhalter was responding to submissions made on Monday by Mike Maritz, for the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), that the public was not aware of what Sanral's Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) would entail.
Maritz argued on Monday that the initial notice of the intention to toll roads in Gauteng by Sanral was "sterile" and "misleading".
He said that if the user-pay principle, or the e-tolls tariffs were released by Sanral in previous notices, there would have been a public outcry sooner.
Unterhalter said Outa and all the organisations it represented had known about the costs involved in improving the roads.
Those who would be affected owned cars and therefore could afford to pay, he said.