California

You can pay $25 to have someone book your DMV appointment, unless this bill becomes law

An Oakland company that advertises itself as a tool to help Californians navigate government could face financial penalties if the Legislature adopts a bill that would outlaw a DMV appointment service it offers.

YoGov, the company, charges Californians for services they can do for free, such as booking at appointments at the Department of Motor Vehicles or waiting in line.

Assemblyman Tyler Diep, R-Westminster, said the company selling appointments for $25 is creating an unfair system.

“It’s unfair to people who cannot afford it,” Diep said. “State government should not be in the business of allowing those who have the means to cut in line.”

Assembly Bill 317 would allow the attorney general to fine companies that sell DMV appointments. Each violation would cost $2,500. The company’s founder and CEO, Ryder Pearce, said the bill wouldn’t apply to him because YoGov markets itself as a concierge service offering tips to customers.

“We are not creating a two-tier system,” Pearce said. “People want easier access to services. We’re just another solution. ... We have never called ourselves an appointment seller.”

But on YoGov’s homepage, the company writes, “In a hurry for a DMV appointment? Our Express DMV service will find you an appointment in 3-4 weeks.”

While the DMV offers free appointments on its website, they are usually unavailable for a couple months, which could be too late for customers whose licenses expire before the next available appointment.

Pearce said his company does not preemptively secure appointments in bulk. Still, he said his employees scour the DMV website and regularly refresh it for new appointments that emerge from customer cancellations.

For those who need immediate assistance but don’t want to wait in line at the DMV, YoGov may look like an attractive option. Its “DMV Line Concierge” service allows customers to pay $95 for someone to wait in line on their behalf. Pearce said some of the proceeds from this go toward subsidizing line waiting for seniors, low-income residents, pregnant women and disabled people.

Regardless of intent, the company had misleading information on its website, saying average wait times in the Bay Area are six to 10 hours for customers without appointments. While it’s true delays rose to high levels in the summer of 2018, they dropped precipitously to an average of 35 minutes by the end of the year.

In the Sacramento area, wait times are 12 minutes for customers with appointments and 37 minutes for those without them — exceeding the DMV’s ambitious wait time goals.

“We should probably update that expectation,” Pearce said.

Immediately after being interviewed, Pearce updated the company’s website to say wait times in the Bay Area range from two to three hours. The price for the service remained at $95.

The DMV has been investigating YoGov’s practices for months. Artemio Armenta, a spokesman for the department, said the DMV’s review is ongoing.

“The DMV continues to look into matters involving third parties such as YoGov. So far, no legal violations have been found. But the investigation continues,” Armenta said.

He also urged customers to book free online appointments at the DMV’s website. “Appointments are available at all DMV offices and may be scheduled up to 90 days in advance for a driver license, identification card, and vehicle registration services.”

While Diep acknowledged his bill won’t affect YoGov’s “line concierge service,” he called the proposal an important step to “discourage online cyber-squatting.”

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