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Potential for problems?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014   by: Rick McGee

Baffling ServiceOntario practices can easily lead to time-wasting hassles for people trying to complete a routine provincial requirement.

The potential for problems begins when a motorist receives a ServiceOntario Driver’s Licence Renewal Application in the mail.

One section (shown) of the single-sheet government document indicates that payment can be made by cash, debit, cheque, credit card, or “other” means.


Here is a photo of the actual block of copy:

The same directive appears in French.

The form obviously appears to advise drivers that they can pay by cheque at a ServiceOntario site should they prefer to take care of things that way.

No restrictions or stipulations are mentioned.

Trouble is, personal cheques for driver’s licence renewals aren’t accepted at ServiceOntario outlets.

That’s what counter staff tell motorists trying to renew their licence that way.

Naturally, given the form’s content, people get caught by surprise. showed the ServiceOntario form to more than a dozen drivers chosen randomly.

They ranged in age from young adults to seniors with many decades of driving experience.

Those selected were asked to read the form.

Then they were asked if it indicates drivers can take it to ServiceOntario and pay by cheque.

All respondents said the form told them they could.

None said there is an indication that cheques aren’t accepted.

ServiceOntario's misleading instructions found lacking

When told that, in fact, payment cannot be handled by personal cheque, several of those asked for their opinion pointed to the form incredulously and said things like, “But it says right here that you can.”

Inadequate ServiceOntario instructions aren’t limited to the form.

No signage about cheques is posted at the Sault Ste. Marie location on Bruce Street.

Further, a provincial government website also indicates that cheques are acceptable, as shown below:

Many drivers, of course, won’t try to pay by cheque anyway.

And others whose cheques won’t be accepted can easily switch to another payment method, writing off the situation as "typical government stuff."

Yet, in most cases, it’s not really the government’s policies about chequing that are most troubling.

Being caught by surprise and hitting an unanticipated barrier is the larger issue.

The confusion created can be consequential for those who want to use cheques and rightfully expect - based on the information provided - to be fully served in person at a ServiceOntario site.
Older drivers, for example, may want to pay by cheque because that’s the payment method with which they feel most comfortable and secure.

In other cases, drivers in outlying areas can drive significant distances without knowing a service roadblock awaits them.

Local frontline staff, who consistently provide helpful assistance, shouldn’t be blamed for the confusing situation and resulting frustrations.

ServiceOntario workers don’t create the policies and procedures they have to follow.

Amazingly, this saga includes yet another strange twist.

While preparing this article, a ServiceOntario spokesperson informed that payment can be made at an outlet with a certified cheque.

But how are drivers to know?

No mention of this appears on the form or website.

It’s also worth noting that obtaining a certified cheque means drivers must go to their financial institution and, as a rule, pay a service fee.

The next article will include ServiceOntario’s responses to SooToday’s questions about their practices.

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Me Myself an I 3/26/2014 1:32:57 AM Report

Are they taking the form to the privatized Service Ontario offices or the ones still staffed by Government employees?
Me Myself an I 3/26/2014 1:35:30 AM Report

Oh and by the way, the Bruce street location is one of the privatized locations.
shju 3/26/2014 1:50:27 AM Report

Payable by cheque when you mail it in. Your picture even states it..... I don't see an issue here.
Auntiej 3/26/2014 6:34:49 AM Report

Look at the first pic again, it does say cheque on the form and not the mail in part.
bugalugs 3/26/2014 6:47:50 AM Report

Not to mention you need to know the name of your insurance co, if you are renewing for a family well as present mileage on the vehicle! Why? Just to be a pain in the a$$... It's not their job to need the info...just renew the sticker...oh and please no lecture from the critics that comment on every post!
Me Myself an I 3/26/2014 6:56:08 AM Report

@Auntiej Look at the second pic, where it says OR MAIL WITH YOUR CHEQUE.

Would be nice thou if they showed 1 picture of the whole form so readers could get a proper idea instead of these edited pics.
Javaman 3/26/2014 7:29:30 AM Report

I don't even have cheques anymore...everything gets paid online or by debit card.
Slim Shady 3/26/2014 7:33:09 AM Report

While I do understand the point of the article that misinformation is often worse than no information, this is 2014 – who really accepts personal (not certified) cheques anymore?! I think I cut less than 4 or 5 cheques per year and I am in my 40’s. Nowadays even certified cheques are being eliminated due to EMT transfers by email or cellphone number. For the price of $1 (free if you have an account package) you can send money anywhere in Canada to anyone with an email or cellphone. They receive it almost instantaneously (sometimes an hour).

Most people, even seniors, are online and online services make sense especially if you have mobility issues. Most people have Interac and/or a major credit card and of course cash is always king. The government needs to streamline their costs and it makes sense to eliminate processing cheques and with it all the associated banking fees (which you and me land up paying for in the end).

I do believe this misleading process and forms should be brought to the attention of our MPP who should address the government oversight.
superior87 3/26/2014 7:35:28 AM Report

This story really needs more than 1 part to it?
bounder 3/26/2014 7:42:17 AM Report

Talk about picking fly sh**t out of this story.
Rick McGee get a real job.
duncan1 3/26/2014 7:58:34 AM Report

I think the better question here to answer is what "other" means of payment are acceptable?? Peanuts? Deed to my house? A limb? Lol!!
Sam C 3/26/2014 8:10:57 AM Report

The instructions are poorly worded. I think it means you can pay by cheque if you are mailing the form in.

@bugalugs... The insurance info is required: no insurance, no renewal. The mileage is for statistical purposes, and for the DriveClean program.
Just Curious 3/26/2014 8:12:29 AM Report

Haven't wrote a cheque in 10 years at least and pay everything but the rent on-line or debit/cash. I do remember when they would take a cheque although it was in a small town where everyone knew you and if your cheque bounced everybody in town knew it the next day.:).
Eagles Fan. 3/26/2014 8:30:37 AM Report

THAT'S IT!!! The next time I'm in the grocery store and something isn't the right price because of a flyer misprint, I'm calling
what about bob 3/26/2014 8:31:53 AM Report

"Local frontline staff, who consistently provide helpful assistance".....I beg to differ on that statement, as I personally was treated by a young female clerk who became rude and defensive at the Bruce St. location last fall, when I simply asked a question. No smile, just defensiveness, from an agent representing the Ontario government. UNACCEPTABLE! Because of that experience, I filed a formal complaint.
Lerard 3/26/2014 8:33:09 AM Report

Caught with only your cheque-book and no CCard or interac... They must get that one a lot. I still write quite a few cheques per year, but only for delayed payments, i.e.: school milk program, pizza days, kids sports, CSA produce... Cheques are very relevant, but not for payments that are due immediately. We use the Sears Card and get the points! Saves on the bank fees.
Auntiej 3/26/2014 8:39:11 AM Report

The first part does say CHEQUE!!!!! And it is for licence renewal not sticker renewal!
buddyjewel 3/26/2014 8:39:30 AM Report

I find their business name "Service" Ontario ironic because the "Service" sucks! The wait to get your renewal is worse than the long wait at the doctor's office. I think the unsmiling, unfriendly staff is less then motivated.
whatstheproblemhere 3/26/2014 8:40:12 AM Report

Sounds like it's the privatized operation that's causing the confusion, not the government. FWIW, on my last visit to the Bruce Street office the staff were helpful and efficient.
Javaman 3/26/2014 8:42:58 AM Report

How can we afford TWO Service Ontario offices? Did they forget there is one on Queen Street as well? Lets trade one for a FEDERAL passport office.
BlackHelix 3/26/2014 8:49:35 AM Report

"Amazingly, this saga includes yet another strange twist."

You find the fact that they don't make a distinction between certified and personal cheque "Amazing" with a "strange twist"?

Your life must be very boring.
Slim Shady 3/26/2014 8:50:29 AM Report


Federal Passport office? We have one of those and it is on Queen Street across from Joe's Sports?!

As for the reader that mentioned that they had rude service at the Bruce Street location, I am surprised of their experience because I have always received decent service in my dealings with them. However if you did receive rude service good for you for going the extra step in doing something about it by filing a complaint. You can't improve a service unless people provide feedback.
JDD 3/26/2014 9:03:13 AM Report

Wow don't people have better things to do with their lives? Pay with something else, life goes on. I think there's more important stuff in life to worry about right now. Hard to believe a media outlet even wastes their time on stuff like this.
rcssm69 3/26/2014 9:04:38 AM Report

So I take it Rick McGee was the guy that couldn't pay by cheque and got pissed off and wrote this poor excuse of an article! God Sootoday is going downhill fast!!!
jinjin 3/26/2014 9:30:32 AM Report

Great story. Now I know not to try and pay with the most archaic of payment methods at one more place. Sootoday saves the day!
AHappyMan 3/26/2014 9:31:07 AM Report

I have been that place on Bruce Street very recently actually. I had to get my licence renewed + my wife's mother's disability sticker renewed and I had absolutely no problem with either the staff there or the service provided by the lady handling our business. I do believe that there are probably times when 'certain problems' may arise with respect to having to wait a long time to get service but I have found those cases are usually due to the fact that there is a higher volume of people wanting to get things done at that particular time or on that particular day ( ie. iether around noon when some of the staff may be on lunch and / or especially near or at the end of the month for example ). All in all, I would say the staff there show you the same kind of respect that you show them which is only fair as far as I am concerned anyway.
what about bob 3/26/2014 9:46:44 AM Report

@ Happyman, that's great that you got great service when you were there recently. I know for a fact that my formal complaint of rudeness and defensiveness from the staff there was investigated and they were "coached" to improve their customer service.
66cherokee 3/26/2014 10:20:53 AM Report

There is a cost to getting a cheque certified and it's not cheap. Some fee packages at banks include cheque certification, but most don't. It runs anywhere from $5. and up.
ThinkAgain 3/26/2014 10:40:04 AM Report

The location on Bruce St is a private outlet & poorly managed.
The service center near the court house takes checks, they are extremely helpful & friendly. Never had any problems.
jojoe71 3/26/2014 10:52:44 AM Report

Using cheques is going the way of the penny. besides you don't need money in the bank to write one but you do for debit cards. Can you imagine the nightmare for businesses trying to cash all them checks written by lowlifes with no money in the bank. we live in a time of instant exchanges..texting. It takes a few days before they know the cheque you wrote is worthless. there is a very small place for cheques in society today but service Ontario is not one of them for obvious reasons. Get with the program people.
crashed13 3/26/2014 11:02:24 AM Report

Nothing to do with this but the Office on Bruce can not issue or renew the Enhanced Drivers Licenses that allow border crossing like the office on Queen can.
Wobbler 3/26/2014 11:36:23 AM Report

I went to the Queen Street Service Ontario branch to renew my enhanced driver's licence and there was no one there that was qualified to do it. There were no signs and I was not informed until the clerk was almost half way through the process. Now because of an illness that prevented me from going back within a short period of time I have to go through the whole process like it was my first time applying. I have no issue with the actual service there; the clerk that was serving me was very helpful and made a couple of phone calls to see if someone could help me by phone, but to no avail. Wondering why only 2 people in that office are qualified to reissue or even take the applications for the EDL? I feel that all clerks should be trained to do that would be good service at "Service Ontario"!!
vlr 3/26/2014 11:50:18 AM Report

All 3 pictures in this article say you can pay by cheque. It might not be the fault of the employees at Bruce St, but the owner of the business should be asking the the government to change the forms as well as posting signage to alert lisencees
vlr 3/26/2014 11:51:24 AM Report

All 3 pictures in this article say you can pay by cheque. It might not be the fault of the employees at Bruce St, but the owner of the business should be asking the the government to change the forms as well as posting signage to alert lisencees.
Shortz 3/26/2014 2:37:09 PM Report

The Service Ontario office on Bruce St has terrible service and I've found some of the staff to be quite rude with customers to start off with. I walk out of there more frustrated than anything else maybe 4 out of 5 visits. Last incident was them telling me that I had to have a 32yr old motorcycle appraised for application of the sales tax, when that procedure DOES NOT apply to motorcycles! I avoid Bruce St at all costs and use the office on Queen St.
taste_of_ink 3/26/2014 4:36:57 PM Report

"Effective January 1, 2005, all personal cheques must be certified unless payment is sent by mail."

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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