Since July 2, 2018, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has allowed the state’s 200 deputy registrars to charge people obtaining or renewing driver’s licenses or state-issued I.D.s a $1.50 lamination fee even though the registrars were no longer producing—or laminating—the cards on site. As a result, an estimated two million Ohioans have been charged $3 million for a service that was not performed.
Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch the registrars should not be pocketing the fee. “Clearly, the registrars should not be charging for something they are not providing … that’s not fair. Many of us don’t think about a buck fifty, it’s not a big deal. But it is a big deal when you think about being charged extra fees for no reason. We want to spend our money on what we expected.”
Attorney Marc Dann, founder of the Cleveland-based consumer protection law firm DannLaw agrees with Ms. Turcer. And, if the messages that have been pouring into the firm’s Facebook page are any indication, so do people who paid the bogus fee. “We posted an item on our Facebook page asking anyone who has renewed their license or state I.D. since last July to contact us,” the former Ohio attorney general said. “The response was overwhelming. Those who paid the fee were outraged. They want their money back and they want the state to stop ripping people off.”
Today the legal team at DannLaw took the first step toward recovering the unwarranted fees by filing a class action suit against the BMV in the Ohio Court of Claims. The suit asks the Court to award anyone who paid the lamination fee $1.50 plus interest. The complaint may be read/downloaded here:Madyda Alexander 2019 03 19 Complaint – Lamination Fee INITIAL DRAFT (002)
“While the dollar amount on a per-person basis may be small, there’s nothing trivial about the BMV allowing the registrars to pocket $3 million for doing nothing,” Atty. Dann said. “If everyone shrugs their shoulders and says ‘it’s only a buck fifty’ does that mean it’s ok for the state to grab five dollars or ten dollars from its citizens? Where do you draw the line? At its core, this case isn’t about the $1.50, it’s about holding government officials accountable for their actions. That’s the best way to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.”
According to Atty. Joe Romano of Bay Village, Ohio who is serving as co-counsel on the case the overcharges stem from the fact that in order to comply with federal regulations the BMV itself rather than the registrars began producing and mailing the licenses and I.D. cards last July. “Apparently, and this is something we hope to learn more about as the case progresses, neither the deputy registrars nor the staff at the BMV noticed that people were still being charged the $1.50 lamination fee even though the registrars weren’t laminating a darn thing,” he said.