FOX 8 Defenders: OMV refers 500K cancellations to collections

FOX 8 Defenders: OMV refers 500K cancellations to collections

MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - "This is beyond the capability of any working man to come up with this kind of money," said one Mandeville resident who received one of the 1.1 million letters from the Office of Motor Vehicles in 2015 showing his vehicle registration and driver's license are blocked.

The letter says his car insurance lapsed for 13 days, not on just one vehicle, but on three.  His OMV fees now add up to more than $1,900.

"I don't think I should have to pay this fine to begin with because GoAuto said I had coverage until May 10th," he said. "I got coverage with State Farm on May 10th."

GoAuto Insurance notified the St. Tammany driver in April 2015 with a notice that his policy would be canceled on May 10, but an underwriting manager tells FOX 8 that the policy holder missed his April payment. For 13 days, until his policy through State Farm kicked in, he had no insurance - a violation of state law. The policy holder says he's wasn't aware he had been dropped and had trouble reaching the OMV to get answers.

"I've tried them many, many, many times. It either just rings and rings and rings or I get a message saying we're too busy to answer the phone, call later," he said.

At the state Office of Motor Vehicles in Baton Rouge, the commissioner tells us they've cut back on extended hours and weekends because the number of calls has dropped.

"At this point, I think most people are upset because it went to final debt, and that's a new thing," explained Karen St. Germain.

In fact, the OMV commissioner says more than half of the cancellations have been referred to the state's Office of Debt Recovery, essentially the state's collection agency, because there's been no response. In some cases, the state is withholding drivers' tax refunds to recover that debt.  Meantime, the OMV says it's cleared 91,000 cancellations.

"I had a lady call a couple of weeks ago. (She said) 'I was in Katrina.. these are the dates I remember, you know, I traded this car in.' And we did our own check into the different avenues - you know, there's Car Fax, so we can go verify that she was exactly right," St. Germain said.

Currently, there are 400,000 to 500,000 cancellations where the OMV says drivers have acknowledged that they owe and are working through payments.

"They can start to make partial payments. We just don't have the ability to do the installment agreements until the legislature passes it," St. Germain said.

A proposed law would require the OMV to enter into installment agreements with people who owe fines, penalties and fees on or before January 2017. House Bill 245 would also reinstate driving and registration privileges for drivers who enter into installment agreements with the OMV.

"You start that process, you sign your name on it, you pay that deposit, you show me you're in compliance, and you can start paying monthly, and you will get your license that day," St. Germain said. "The governor has asked us and the legislature to fast track it because we will have a second round of letters going out, and we want to be able to include that to the customers."

It's legislation that could help this St. Tammany Parish husband and father of four clear up his record.

"It's a burden!  It's a hardship!" he said.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or fill out an online complaint form.

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