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Missouri drivers hit with unexpected late fees despite governor's promise

If you got hit with a late fee, there's a chance you can get your money back

When COVID-19 became a public health concern, Missouri took steps making it easier for people to stay home.

Drivers were given a two-month extension on driver's licenses and plates, but it seems not every DMV office got that message.

The I-Team went to find out why some drivers are facing a penalty.

"Follow this order. Stay at home, Missouri." 

Those were Governor Mike Parson's words during a press conference announcing a statewide stay-at-home order in early April.

Two Missouri drivers contacted the I-team to say, they followed the governor's order, but now they're being penalized for it.

"I got kinda mad," said John Harris III of High Ridge.

"I don't think it's right," said Suzanne Haberberger of Union.

Both Harris and Haberberger bought new vehicles in late March and early April. They knew they needed to make a trip to the DMV. But during the stay at home order that month, they say most of their local offices were shut down.

Haberberger, an oncology nurse, was initially glad for the precaution. She works with cancer patients who have compromised immune systems.

"I have to think every day about when I go to work and what I could be bringing there. And I also live with a family member who is 60," said Haberberger.

When license offices reopened last week, Haberberger and Harris were some of the first people in line.

"I went the second day they opened. I really did things as quickly as I could," said Haberberger.

The lines were long and only a handful of people were allowed in the license office at a time. They thought the worst part was the four-hour wait.
It was actually the surprising fee at the end of the line.

"I noticed I get charged a $25 late fee, and I'm like 'How in the heck are they charging a late fee?'" said Harris.

Haberberger complained and was given a 'refund request' form.

"They were telling me that unless it was an act of God, they would review my form and it would take six to eight weeks for me to potentially get my $25. I told [the DMV clerk], 'Coronavirus, I would think, would be considered an act of God.' She said 'No, we mean tornado's and those types of things,'" said Haberberger.

"That's when you're kinda like 'Really? Seriously?'" said Harris.

Adding to the confusion, was a press release from Governor Parson's office at the end of March that stated: "vehicle owners with registrations or license plates expiring in March and April have been granted an automatic two-month extension."

We contacted Missouri's Department of Revenue to find out why that didn't happen. A spokesperson for that office told the I-Team individual DMV's have the authority to waive title penalties related to COVID-19.

A local DMV office we contacted told us they offer refund request forms to customers that explain COVID-19 is the reason they are late.

It's an imperfect system that means it's up to you to be on alert

"In this time that we're in, I'd rather give that $25 tip to the pizza delivery guy, than a $25 tip to someone's back pocket," said Harris.

"It's not about the $25. You think about other people and it's just not right," said Haberberger.

A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue said Haberberger would qualify for a waiver of the $25 fee. They didn't answer our questions about Harris's fee. Bottom line: if you're hit with this fee, request a 426 waiver form. It may take 6-8 weeks but you could get your money back.

The Governor's office is also looking into how the extension system was supposed to be implemented. We are waiting for their updated response.

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