ST. CLOUD, Fla. — A Clermont man claims a local company selling Florida specialty plates online kept his money for a tag he didn’t want.
Action 9 found dozens of complaints against the company, and its president faces federal fraud charges related to another tag selling firm.
Matt Selah wanted a specialty tag for his motorcycle supporting disabled Floridians. Online he found myfloridaspecialyplate.com. It seemed like an easy way to order from a private company that handled all the state’s tag paperwork.
Selah said things didn’t go smoothly: “I never got a response from anybody.”
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He ordered a personalized “Biker’s Care” tag on the company’s website. He paid $199.99 up front. But he claims he couldn’t download the order forms needed. So, he cancelled within 48 hours.
“I made phone calls and email, and I even sent a fax and still no response from anybody,” Selah said.
Six months later, Selah had no money and no tag, so he contacted Action 9.
MyFloridaSpecialtyPlate uses an address on Research Parkway near Orlando. Consumer investigator Todd Ulrich couldn’t find an office inside.
But Action 9 uncovered a disturbing complaint history about the company and its president.
Myfloridaspecialtyplate.com is rated F at the Better Business Bureau. There have been 58 complaints within the past year. Many of those complaints involve failure to deliver plates and missing refunds.
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“The consumers report to Better Business Bureau that they’ve had issues with delayed shipping, delayed fulfillment or sometimes just a complete lack of communication from the company,” said BBB President Holly Salmons.
Company president Michael Towner is facing a federal criminal trial this year, charged with wire fraud. The case involves another company he ran that marketed a Florida specialty tag. State law limits marketing companies to 25% of total funds collected. A federal grand jury found he kept a quarter-million dollars more than allowed. He pleaded innocent to the charges.
Selah can’t understand how Towner can be the president of another company marketing Florida specialty tags.
“I don’t see how the state would let somebody, a third party, do business,” Selah said.
In a written response, Towner said Selah’s issue was the company’s error and Covid-19 restrictions caused refund delays, but it is responding to all complaints and no refunds will be denied. Towner also claims state tag deliveries can take twice as long because of Covid-19.
Two weeks after Selah contacted Action 9, he got a refund check.
“And I got nothing for months,” Selah said.
Action 9 has asked Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles about the company’s history.
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Consumers can save a lot of money buying specialty or personalized tags in person at any state tag or county tax collector’s office. But there can be lengthy delays as Covid-19 has limited the state’s production schedule.
The Orange County Tax Collector’s Office told Action 9 it’s adding an online site later this month for consumers to buy specialty and personalized tags.
A spokesman said consumers can avoid exorbitant prices and get what they paid for using the county site.
Matt Saleh received a refund check and has cashed it. Copy attached. Below is the email stream showing he never received the first refund check and a subsequent one was mailed to him once that was discovered, which he received over the holiday period. He confirmed he got it as you can see. In Mr. Saleh’s case, his refund could not be processed directly through Authorize.net due to the timeline and the restriction by them on direct refunds due to how long had passed, so that is why a check had to be sent to him. He did not receive the first one (#7019) and the second one was mailed on Tuesday, 12/29/19 and he confirmed he received it on Monday, 1/4/21 (#7022).
This was an error on our part in that he had changed his mind and indicated he did not want to proceed with his order due to some difficulty he said that he was having with filling out the required Form 83043 some time ago. We assumed he had not filled in the correct paperwork to process the order and did not get back to him until months later after the lockdown and after we instituted a new procedure on non-processed orders.
At this point we are still catching up and we were only recently advised by our clerk that the state timeline for personalized plates is now 120 days to process, instead of 60-90, so we have updated the instructions on the web site and advised customers in advance from this point that that is the case. If they proceed with the order, they know the timeline in advance. If it changes, we will amend that too.
When Mr. Selah was ordering, the personalized plates were actually shut down.
You can research DMV bulletins here: https://www.flhsmv.gov/motor-vehicles-tags-titles/motor-vehicle-bulletins
These are not sent to me, so I have to constantly check to see if there are any. I have attached 2 of them so you can see what they look like.
We did post updates as they came in on the website:
PLEASE NOTE: FLDHSMV has issued several advisories regarding delays in production due to Covid-19 affecting PRIDE license plate production and delivery. The last was in September, however, according to our processing clerk at the Tax Collector’s Office on 1/15/2021, personalized plates are still taking more than 120 days to be delivered to the clerk’s office after submission to the state/prison for manufacturing. Calls to DMV regarding issues are also taking a minimum of 30 days, maybe due to some staff operating remotely. We have therefore changed our delivery instructions to instruct customers awaiting their plates. We cannot check on plates once they are in the prison and have to wait for them to come back to the clerk to be mailed out before we know of the status of a particular order. 6/16/20 “PRIDE Central Florida Graphics and the PRIDE license plate plant experienced an inmate quarantine directive from the Florida Department of Corrections and the facilities were operating without an inmate work force. The limited staff affected tag production and deliveries for the month of May and June. PRIDE resumed regular operations on June 4, 2020 and will start shipping tag orders twice-a-month until the back orders are caught up. Beginning in June and until further notice, counties can expect tag deliveries from PRIDE in the middle and the end of each month. PRIDE will ship orders on June 19th and 30th.9/16/20 “The grips of COVID-19 continue to affect the PRIDE license plate plant as it moves forward. The plant is experiencing another inmate quarantine directive from the Florida Department of Corrections, and the facilities are operating without an inmate work force. The reduction in staff has a significant impact on license plate production and deliveries for the month of September. PRIDE will ship orders on September 19th and 30th. The September 19th shipment will contain all IRP orders as well as regular, specialty and personalized plates. However, the September 30th shipment will only contain RGS, RGR, RMR, MCR, and MUR plates. They anticipate resuming standard production levels and deliveries by October 1st.”Updated DMV Bulletins can be found here: https://www.flhsmv.gov/motor-vehicles-tags-titles/motor-vehicle-bulletins
Previous customers were not advised when they placed their orders if they were placed prior to the bulletins and a number of them chose not to wait and filed chargebacks, which we always accept, given the circumstances. Mr. Selah was very patient and has his refund - nobody asking for a refund has ever not received it. We have tried to answer the BBB complaints as best we can and deal with anyone who feels they were not treated well. Some are more aggressive than others.
Every page of the website contains the following footer:
This is a privately owned web site that is not owned, operated or affiliated with any Governmental Agency. All orders are fulfilled by official County Tax Collectors and all license plates, decals, vouchers are mailed directly from the Tax Collector to the customer by USPS. All delivery times and availability of certain license plates and requested personalization requests are subject to state production timelines and state and county rules. Issuance of vouchers, decals and license plates are subject to policies that are governed by the Florida State Legislature, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Department of Revenue. ADDITIONAL FEES ARE INCLUDED TO COVER THE COSTS OF CONVENIENCE, PROCESSING AND DELIVERY. PLEASE NOTE: The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has issued several advisories in the past few months regarding delays in production due to COVID-19 affecting PRIDE license plate production and deliveries. The latest run times and delivery times indicate that the production and delivery of personalized license plates are taking up to 120 days.
The ‘office’ address listed is simply a virtual office for mailing purposes (which is also clearly stated on the website) - everything is done remotely and we have no physical operation in Orlando. The phone number is also an answering service - like most online businesses. We respond to every email - including yours.
Cox Media Group