SooToday.com

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.

Elsewhere, instructions - appearing in bold, all-caps type for emphasis - state: “TAKE THIS APPLICATION TO ANY SERVICEONTARIO DRIVER AND VEHICLE LICENCE ISSUING OFFICE OR MAIL WITH YOUR CHEQUE/MONEY ORDER PAYABLE TO THE MINISTER OF FINANCE.”

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.

SooToday.com 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 SooToday.com 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.