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State fee hike may prompt Carfax to leave Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (5/13/08)--A new fee structure for Missouri motor-vehicle and driver records has Carfax--a company that provides vehicle histories for consumers buying used autos--threatening to stop serving Missouri customers. Missouri's Department of Revenue raised the fee to $7 per record, up from $1.25, and eliminated the bulk discount that Carfax and many other data collection companies, insurance companies, and even media use. The fee hike, which was to pay for the department's new $50 million computer system, amounts to a 460% hike and was effective May 1 (Post-Dispatch May 7). R.L. Polk & Co, Carfax's parent company, has used the title and registration data to compile vehicle history reports for the Carfax service, which is offered in some credit unions. Car buyers pay $30 to use the database for 30 days. The firm said that the increase would mean it would owe the state $42 million more than what it pays for data from all 50 states and Canada combined. Before the fee hike, the cost was less than a quarter of a penny per record, said Tim Sowton, regional director for government relations for the firm. The increase and elimination of the bulk discount is 300,000% more. "We cannot survive absorbing that kind of cost increase," he told the Kansas City Star (May 6). As a result, the company won't update its Missouri data, which means Missourians may not receive notices on automobile recalls, he said. In a hearing on May 6, state lawmakers challenged the agency, saying the hike may violate the Sunshine Law. Rep. Shannon Cooper (R-Clinton) indicated that he would draft a bill to halt the fees and "poke it on every bill out there" as an amendment.


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