New DMV hazard to avoid: double billing with online renewals

07/03/2012 5:00 AM

08/05/2014 8:18 PM

Add another car-registration hazard to hours-long waits in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles – the possibility of being charged more than once for the same car when you renew on the Internet.

The good news is it’s a problem you can avoid just by being patient.

Sedgwick County officials warned Tuesday that people who register online should not click the button to submit their registration more than once, no matter how long it takes to go through or how locked up the system seems to be.

The cranky computers that have caused lengthy lines at tag offices are the same ones that serve the online system.

So, if the DMV office computer is down, the Internet registration system will also be slow, said Richard Vogt, the county’s information technology chief.

When their home computer takes a long time to process an online registration, some users respond by clicking on the “submit” button multiple times. That doesn’t speed anything up, but it will send multiple charge requests to your credit-card company.

“It does charge your credit card every time you click ‘submit,’” said County Treasurer Linda Kizzire.

And the user won’t immediately know that, because it can take a day or so for the charges to process through the credit card company, Kizzire said.

Kizzire and Vogt said they don’t think anyone in Sedgwick County has wound up paying more than once for their registration.

Clerks in the treasurer’s office review a daily report of the online transactions looking for multiple charges on the same vehicle. Those stand out in the report, and they think they’ve caught them all and corrected them, Kizzire said.

Vogt said there’s a simple way to avoid the potential for multiple charges – don’t click on the submit button more than once.

Even if the system appears super slow, it probably will eventually catch up and put the registration through, he said.

“My advice is go get a cup of coffee,” he said. “If it truly times out, you’ll get an error message.”

Kizzire’s advice for dealing with car registration is simple: If it’s anything but title work that absolutely has to be handled in person, either mail it in or do it online.

Even if the online system is slowed down, you can at least wait it out at home a lot more comfortably than in line at the tag office, Kizzire said.

She also cautioned customers not to wait until the last minute.

System meltdowns that basically shut down tag offices throughout the state late last Thursday and Friday were probably a result of too many people trying to register at once, Kizzire said.

Lines still slow at tag office

Tuesday, registration was proceeding, but at a glacial pace. By lunchtime, the crowd in the Murdock Street tag office was standing-room only and the wait list was about 125 numbers deep.

“It took a long time. I’ve been here an hour and a half,” said Willie Hardyway, who is disabled, as he pasted his renewal sticker on his license plate. “That’s just too much. It’s a long time, man.”

Others were leaving in frustration, although some continued to cling to their numbered tickets and the hope they could come back and complete their business before day’s end.

“They’re on 30i; I’ve got 30j,”said Ron West, who bought a motorcycle over the weekend and wanted to tag it. “It’ll be at least an hour, so I’m going to go do something else. Luckily it’s my day off.”

Trudy McDonough, who recently moved to Kansas, had tried three times in the last week to register her family’s three cars.

On June 25, she waited about four hours before giving up. She came back the following day and the lines were as long.

Her new strategy: Get the Highway Patrol inspections done on all three cars, then come in early to be there when the office opens.

She said the service here is worse than in California, a state legendary for the sluggish pace of its DMV offices.

“In California, you can make an appointment online,” she said.

Problems started with new computer system

The problem with DMV computer crashes started in May with the implementation of a new statewide system to replace decades-old computers.

The new computers were supposed to run faster and offer new capabilities such as linking vehicle registration and drivers’ license records.

Because of difficulties in implementation of the new system, the deadline for motorists who were required to register their cars in May was pushed back to June 30. That created a bottleneck Thursday and Friday because a lot of registrants were trying to renew their tags in the last two business days before they expired, Kizzire said.

Kizzire said she has asked County Manager William Buchanan for permission to hire additional part-time help to reduce waiting times.

But she emphasized that the problem is with the state and its vendor, not with the county, so there is little that can be done at the local level.

“If Richard (Vogt’s) people could fix it, I know they would,” she said.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said the Thursday and Friday slowdown was caused by two different problems.

Friday’s slowdown was in the DMV’s new system; Thursday’s was a broader problem with the state’s computer system that affected other departments as well, Koranda said.

And even on Friday, Sedgwick County managed to push through nearly 1,700 renewals, Koranda said.

The next big bulge in registrations is expected around July 13, the extended deadline for registrants who were originally scheduled to register in June.

“What we’ve found is if you give some people an extension, they’ll push it to the very end,” Koranda said.

Last week, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan informed the system vendor, 3M Co. that he is dissatisfied with the response times and reliability of the new system.

The state is withholding payments on the last 10 percent of the $25 million contract until performance improves.

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