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Editorial: BMV image can heal by overcharge fix

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Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles says motorists the agency charged too much for driver’s licenses will receive credit for the amount they were overcharged.

BMV Commissioner R. Scott Waddell said in a statement that the agency will “immediately” credit motorists’ accounts with the department for the amount they were overcharged.

He said the BMV believes it’s “important to return the overcharge directly to those who have been impacted” in light of what he called the “recently discovered overcharge.”

Waddell added, “It is the right thing to do.”

We agree.

So, next time you go into the BMV to do business, you’ll get a $3.50 credit for each operator’s license you have. The credit will be attached to your identity, so if you were overcharged, you should get that money back eventually.

In March, notice of a lawsuit was filed, contending that the bureau “systematically overcharged” millions of Hoosiers for their driver’s licenses for years with extra fees not allowed under state law. The lawsuit took issue with fees put in place in 2007 that charge drivers $4 to $7 when they renew their licenses.

The fees exceed charges authorized by the Indiana General Assembly, the lawsuit claims.

“I’m not in a position to guess as to why this happened,” said Irwin Levin, the attorney who filed the suit. “All I know is that the law is very, very specific as to what the component parts of the fee are, and they charged more than that.”

“These fee overcharges, in amounts as high as $7 per license, have affected millions of transactions and forced these applicants to pay tens of millions of dollars more than they are lawfully required to pay in order to obtain their Operator’s Licenses,” the lawsuit alleges.

Hoosiers may have been overcharged between $30 million and $40 million, according to the law firm’s calculations.

As one motorist quoted in a media report at the time put it: “That adds up to a whole lot of money that they shouldn’t be getting from us when we already pay taxes on everything. Everything’s already getting more expensive.”

The lawsuit asks that the money be returned and the practice be stopped.

“We would hope that the state of Indiana, which is the government of the people, would see that they’ve overcharged people and agree to a class and agree to give people back their money,” Levin said.

The BMV said in May in response to the lawsuit that it “may have inadvertently” overcharged drivers for licenses.

The license bureau has made great strides in the past decade to improve service. Long gone are the days of tortuously long lines and complacent clerks. Today, response times are much shorter, and service is much improved.

The discovery of the overcharges is a black eye and set back some of the good will that had been engendered.

By repaying the overages, the bureau can help ease hurt feelings and repair some of the damage to its image. Tracking down customers won’t be easy, but doing so will help restore trust in the agency.

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