LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Tax Collector Joe Tedder says Our Better Call Behnken report on a Tampa man who felt duped into paying extra fees to renew his truck registration hit a nerve.
“I don’t want to call these people crooks, but in my opinion they are,” Tedder said.
Tedder says his phone rings off the hook with citizens who are furious that his office is charging ridiculous fees. Then they realize they actually paid a private company, eTags.
Tedder says eTags charges about $30 to renew registration, but his county website charges just $3.
“So really, this company is charging them 10 times more what they could do it through their local tax collector,” Tedder said.
If you Google Florida vehicle registration, the first site you’ll see is for eTags, Tedder said, because they pay search engines to be listed first.
You get a receipt for about $29.40, but the itemized receipt shows “FL vehicle registration taxes” TBD – “to be determined.”
Garret Gilbertson felt taken advantage of when he ended up paying $130.
“They’re putting everything on the website, by law, the way they’re supposed I would imagine… They talked to attorneys, but at the end of the day, I think it’s a pretty shiesty way to get money from people,” Tedder said.
Tedder wants the state to do more to warn consumers to be careful which website they click on.
The eTags company, and others like it, offer the same service that the state of Florida offers – but they charge fees that the state doesn’t charge.
“The service fees charged by these sorts of companies make the cost of the transaction much higher [for] the customer,” a DMV spokeswoman said in a statement.
Garrett Gilbertson found this out the hard way. Gilbertson turned to Better Call Behnken after he ended up paying more than he realized on eTags.
Gilbertson said he thought has paying $30, and his receipt even stated that he was charged $30.
However, he didn’t notice that his receipt also said, “FL Vehicle Registration taxes” TBD.
He didn’t notice until he received another receipt days later for $129.15.
“It is on me in part because I should have slowed down and just read, but at the same time, I don’t know how many people are going to think they’re going to get scammed on $100,” Gilbertson said.
Gilbertson did receive his tag in a timely manner, he just paid more than he would have if he had gone through the state website.
The department provides resources such as GoRenew.com and the MyFlorida App on iTunes and Google Play, available to consumers who are looking to renew their registration online.
Gilbertson isn’t the first customer to complain about eTags.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office investigated the company’s practices earlier this year and reached an agreement with the company in September.
As part of that agreement, eTags changed wording on its website to include in big letters that the site is not affiliated with the government.
Gilbertson said he still didn’t notice, in part because he found eTags through a website partner, DMV.org. He mistakenly assumed the DMV site was the government website directing him to eTags as a choice in renewal options.
No one from eTags has responded to an email from Better Call Behnken.