NY DMV Doesn't Believe I Already Paid Fee, Wants More Money

New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t believe that Danjalier already paid the fees to have his driver’s license un-suspended. Never mind that he used a credit card, the charge from the DMV posted to his credit card, and the credit card company (American Express) tried to convince the DMV that yes, Danjalier had in fact already paid them.

Some back story: Due to events that occurred a few weeks ago, I had to suffer a visit to the [redacted], NY DMV to have my license unsuspended and to apply for a Restricted Use License. I charged the $50 suspended license revocation fee and another $37.50 for the restricted use license to my American Express Card. I received a receipt for this transaction totaling $87.50 at the DMV, as well as an interim restricted use license. A week later I received a proper license.

Today, October 27th, I receive a PAYMENT DUE NOTICE letter from the NYS DMV which claims “Due to a system problem, your credit card was not debited and DMV did not receive payment of the required fee(s). Therefore, the payment receipt that you were given is invalid as proof of payment. Although the problem was not caused by your credit card or your credit card company, you may wish to verify with your credit card company that your account was not charged for the DMV transaction(s).”

I promptly checked my credit card statement online and found that my account had indeed been charged 87.50 on the date I visited by “New York State DMV 167″.

The letter informs me that payment is still due and to avoid further action by the DMV I must pay within 15 days. Not only that, but I cannot bring payment to any local DMV offices due to the nature of the system problem. It must be payed via check or money order to the DMV’s central office in Albany NY. Seeing the option to pay by credit card over the phone, I called the provided number only to hear: “Due to reasons beyond our control, we are unable to receive your call at this time. Please try again later. Thank you.”

At this point I called card services for American Express. I spoke with a customer service representative whose name I unfortunately cannot recall. She told me that I had indeed been charged and the DMV did receive payment. She attempted for at least 25 minutes to convince the DMV that I had paid them, keeping me abreast of the situation the whole way through. I explained to her that not only did I have my receipt, but a valid NYS restricted use driver’s license as well. This didn’t seem to mean anything to the DMV, who continued to claim that I still owed them payment. She also called the number I had called and received the same automated message. Finally she suggested that we simply dispute the charge and then re-charge my card the amount. I made sure to question whether any extra fees would be levied against me and she told me none would be charged whatsoever.

At this point I was transferred to a dispute department representative named [D.] He explained to me the process of disputing the charge and with my permission would go about doing such. I said yes and was placed on hold.

After 5 more minutes [D.] came back and told me AMEX can do nothing for me. Because I had received a valid NYS driver’s license, the merchant (NY DMV) had provided the service I payed for. I am told that my next course of action is to explain to the NYS DMV that their payment processor is in error.

I feel as though 2 Titans have clashed in epic battle, and the one on my side pretty much told me to handle it myself and bailed. Considering AMEX told me that the DMV says it never received my $87.50, I can pretty much expect another PAYMENT DUE NOTICE letter to arrive shortly for the remaining $37.50. Logically speaking, if I have in my possession a receipt for $87.50 from the DMV, as well as a new New York State Driver’s License, how can the DMV not have received payment? Why would they simply hand me a state issued legally valid form of identification? And yes, I can already see the sordid juxtaposition of “Logic” with “DMV” and the onslaught of jokes to come.

Aside from sending the DMV a copy of my license and my receipt and my credit card statement, and telling them that they should consider changing payment processors, what can I do? AMEX basically told them this already and they didn’t budge. I’m also afraid that the DMV will simply tell me “We had a system error and can’t prove you exist.”

You know things are bad when the credit card company comes out looking almost heroic. Forgive the civil servants at the DMV; like employees of many governments, they’re short-handed and fearful of layoffs. (Full disclosure: I write about government workers for another publication.)

Sending photocopies of the receipt, credit card statement, and license is a good place to start. Even a bureaucrat should acknowledge the validity of a receipt from their own agency. We hope.

Comments

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  1. patrick says:

    I guess it literally does pay not to have a suspended license.

    • kc2idf says:

      …and your point?

      People make mistakes. Sometimes the suspended license isn’t the fault of the suspendee, like when your insurance company has system errors that cause them to keep cancelling your insurance leading to a suspension of both registration and license. Could that happen? Yes, it could. I know, because it happened to me.

      The speed to judgement on this site is just mind-blowing. Not every problem is of the OP’s making.

      • crunchberries says:

        Whoa, chill there, homeskillet. Patrick is just pointing out the pun in literally having to ‘pay’ (suffer) to ‘pay’ (give money to) for a suspended license.

        Jeez, and I thought I was humorless.

  2. pop top says:

    They say they can’t accept payment in person, but you don’t owe any money and that shouldn’t stop you doesn’t mean you from going in anyway with a copy of everything you can think of plus your license. If you can show a live person you have your license, maybe they can fix it for you on their end, or put you in touch with someone who can. Don’t just give up when it gets too hard.

  3. Blueskylaw says:

    Get a physical receipt from AMEX and mail it to DMV or have it faxed over by AMEX to prove you paid your due. You know you’re an asshat when the good guy is the credit card company in a situation.

    • RandomHookup says:

      I think the issue isn’t that the DMV cares if you’ve been charged…they need proof that they’ve been paid by AMEX. It’s an issue between those two parties and the DMV believes they haven’t been paid…and they control the license.

  4. Truthie says:

    Actually the first agent was right. The best course of action would have been to have the DMV charge the card again, and to then dispute the charge, since he would have then been double-charged for the service.

    • pop top says:

      That could’ve led to a cycle of the DMV charging the card > OP disputing the charge > AMEX finding in the OP’s favor > DMV saying they didn’t get money and need to charge the card, etc. And they can always send the account to collections, even if they lost the chargeback dispute. It’s not legal, but I’m sure they’d do it anyway.

      • Difdi says:

        There’s also the possibility of more direct action. The DMV is a state government agency, and so are the state police.

    • jrwn says:

      When I working for PayPal and was doing chargebacks, we were told that a double billing was when a charge was put through within a few minutes of each other and for the same amount. If there were 2 transactions within a few days of each other, we couldn’t just accept it as a double bill, for all we know the buyer went and bought the same thing for their grandma.

  5. laffmakr says:

    Take them to small claims court.

    • pop top says:

      For what exactly? They don’t owe him money. What would he sue them for? Do you know how small claims works?

      • Dover says:

        If he pays the second charge (which he may end up having to in order to avoid a revoked license), then the DMV would owe him money. I think this can be resolved before it gets to this point, but it may become necessary in the future.

  6. crabbygeek says:

    I once had a warrant out for my arrest due to a clerical error where it showed I paid a ticket twice… that’s right twice… twice…
    Luckily I was able to clear it up once I received a letter informing me of the warrant…
    Why they would issue a warrant for a double paid ticket is beyond me…

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You mean you can’t pay towards parking tickets in advance? That would be a great service! They let you pay up to 3 tickets in advance and you get a 20% discount.

    • Damocles57 says:

      The system is probably set up to send bills to any person with a non-zero balance. The person who wrote the algorithm has a line that says, “if not equal to 0: send bill” rather tnan, “if greater than or equal to zero: send bill.”

      After all, who would pay more than is owed? I wonder if you paid the fine and your “account” was credited with a payment from someone else who then got a ticket for non-payment?

  7. tamaracks says:

    This is clearly a ridiculous situation. However, I don’t think stating that you have a valid restricted license will help your case with the DMV. That and the receipt just shows that your card was authorized at the time of the transaction. Obviously something went wrong after that point, so it doesn’t prove the card was actually charged.

    However, I would think your statement would prove that. I would try to reach someone at the central office and explain that you have a credit card statement and try to show it to them.

    • Dover says:

      Yeah, the ‘I got my license, so you must have charged me’ argument is really dumb. They know he got the license, they just think the payment didn’t go through.

      I think this calls for an EECB with a copy of the receipt and credit card statement to the head of the DMV and state representatives.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Except when he tried to “reach someone at the central office” he got a recording saying they weren’t available, and then hung up on.

      I have experienced that with NYDMV as well. For days on end. Calling them is often not an option.

  8. jrwn says:

    I would say, got to the attorney general and tell them you are dealing with an organization who you paid, have a reciept, and a charge on your credit card statment, and now they want you to pay again. Let the AG say how unfair it is before dropping the bombshell that it is their DMV.

  9. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_State_Plaza

    pictured is the swan street building.

    It’s amazing how many marble bathrooms were installed in the Albany area right around the same time they were putting up the walls.

  10. anime_runs_my_life says:

    Um..how about hoofing it down to the DMV and showing them the receipt and your statement. Make sure that you make copies so that they can’t “lose” them. I mean, that’s what any logical person would do. But I guess that’s just me.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      You ever been to a New York DMV office? It’s like waiting in a breadline in Soviet Russia – except the Soviet bureaucrats were probably more helpful.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      They’ve already told him nobody in the local office can help him, and the central office isn’t answering (standard in my experience, and it can be days until the phone system comes back.)

      Unfortunately, I think his only option now is to pay again as instructed, by check or money order, even if he has to borrow the funds. Then go to Albany, the AG, keep trying to call the central office to get the card charge reversed. If the license is suspended again, it’s only gonna make things even harder to fix.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I think the easiest thing to do is to issue a chargeback (which you’re already in works with your CC company so should be easy) and then re-pay the amount.

    • mrscoach says:

      He tried that, but the guy in the disputes department said he received something for his money, so no chargeback. He has a license and a receipt, so as far as AMEX is concerned he is a satisfied customer.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Also, there should be a chargeback type for “paid for by alternate means”. If he pays again w/ a check, THEN gives the letter, the check and both receipts to Amex, they should be able to then process a chargeback. No matter what, he needs to send the check first, even though it’s unfair and a pain. If the license is revoked again, it may be even harder to get it back a second time.

  12. Admiral_John says:

    Contact your assemblyman or state senator. Especially with election time in a few days they may be more than willing to intervene on your behalf.

  13. zombie70433 says:

    Call the DMV and ask to speak to a supervisor, and fax a copy of your statement directly to them. That’s probably the best route to take.

    Another idea – something my pawpaw always tells me. Call your congressman. I know it’s drastic, but it sounds like the DMV is going to be stubborn, and might need a good shove.

  14. LONGSAIL says:

    Why not simply pay them again and dispute the second charge as a duplicate payment. That gets you squared away for now and buys time to get the matter straightened out.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      It’s hard to dispute a check or money order. Even if they took CC as the 2nd payment, a dispute would put him back where he is now.

  15. Alvis says:

    There is no NJ DMV. It’s the MVC.

  16. AllanG54 says:

    In New York the only reason a restricted use license is issued is because someone was stopped for either DWI or DUI. You’re only supposed to drive to go to work or school but no one obeys that part of the law. If the license is so important pay the $87.50 again and then try and resolve this because if the DMV suspends your license again, and they will, and you get stopped you’ll be in a heck of a lot more trouble.

  17. mkn1972 says:

    Having had numerous fails through the NYS DMV I am not surprised in the least that the DMV got their money and still says he owes.

    NYS makes you prove your identity to get a license; this little quirk of theirs took me 2 weeks to prove despite having all the necessary documents. Why? Because my passport was within two months of its expiry date. Never mind it was still valid.
    Two weeks of arguing, getting a letter FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT, and standing in line til I nearly grew roots and I was able to swap my out of state license for a NY one.

    When we moved out of state, we cancelled our NYS auto insurance and purchased a policy in the new state. NYS then suspended my partner’s driver’s license for no insurance, but never bothered to notify us of it. Imagine the embarrassment when he tried to get a new license. It took another 6 months to prove to the DMV that we no longer resided in NYS, had the proper liability insurance, and that no lapse in coverage had occurred. After ONLY two multistate road trips to Albany, NY, we were able to prove our case and get NYS to reinstate his drivers license.
    When we finally got back home, the new state DMV told us that NYS DMV does this to people ALL THE TIME… fully half of the people who move out of state from NY end up getting their licenses suspended because, hey, it’s a profit center for them.

    I enjoyed living in NY… but the DMV there is the fifth circle of hell.

  18. sweetgreenthing says:

    Something like this happened to me in California last year. I paid my registration by check well before the due date and received my new tags. Three months later, I got a letter from the DMV saying my license was suspended for not paying my registration. I brought my bank statement showing the payment went through, as well as my new registration papers.
    The DMV refused to remove the suspension even with this proof, and I went back a second time after several calls to the department they directed me to- which never once answered the phone, regardless of how long I waited on hold or at what time of day I called.
    I refused to leave the DMV without the situation being resolved, and the best they could do for me was acknowledge that I did, in fact, pay my registration on time and then charge me another $100 to remove the wrongful suspension.
    I paid that $100 out of desperation to have the suspension removed. I found out that 3 of my customers at work had faced the same problem during that year. Either they have the worst payment processing system known to man, or this was one heck of a scam.

  19. dickmac says:

    If the poster paid the suspension termination fee and received the Restricted License at a NYS operated DMV office, he/she should talk with his/her NYS Senator and/or Assemblyperson. If the transactions were processed at a county clerk operated office, the contact person should be the County Clerk, or the Deputy County Clerk in charge of that office.

  20. Danjalier says:

    I just called in to the Consumerist tip line with an update to the story.

    After a brief visit to the original DMV today to which I brought with me my card statement and receipt, I informed them of my situation and was told they couldn’t do anything.

    I was able to reach a live person in Albany via the provided number. I retold my dilemma and was placed on hold for a few minutes.

    As it turns out, the 50 dollars the DMV was requesting was an entirely different charge that did in fact not go through. The 87.50 I had paid was ONLY for the Restricted Use License. While I did receive a receipt for the 50 dollar revocation fee, and it was stapled to another receipt for the restricted use license that listed 87.50, there was no total amount charged to be seen anywhere.

    Hence, the only charge that went through was $87.50. In this aspect, the DMV was CORRECT.
    The only argument AMEX could use in my defense was that a transaction had occurred. Like me, AMEX was under the impression that the 50 dollars was part of the 87.50. It was not. So when DMV told AMEX last night that the charge did not go through, they meant the 50 dollars. AMEX thought it was the 87.50 and passed the word on to me.

    This was a hat trick of failure. Neither I or AMEX knew there was supposed to be a total of 137.50 charged to my card, and neither the DMV representative AMEX spoke with, or the ones I physically spoke to today could tell either of us this information. It took “C” in Albany to place me on hold and come back with an answer.

    The situation is resolved. I’ve paid the DMV 50 dollars.

  21. Torchwood says:

    We are DMV of New York. Resistance is futile. From this point forward, you will service us.

    It is interesting that if you have a sole business in a industry, it is called a monopoly. But, if you have a sole agency to handle things, it is called a bureaucracy.

  22. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I think the problem was trying to dispute prior to double paying. You will need to pay with a check, get the canceled check and the credit card statement together, and then use the check, receipt, credit card statement, and DMV payment letter as evidence of double payment. AMEX should reverse the charge at that point.