Ontario Online Drivers License Renewal: Failure

My librarian, it was, that brought the issue to my attention: Your driver’s license needs renewal. This occurs every 5 years, so not very top of mind. But hey, it is 5 years later, and there is a Government of Ontario, Canada, web site that I can use to renew my drivers license, print a temporary one, and the valid license will be mailed to me in 4 to 6 weeks. Unfortunately for me all did not go so well. The Service Ontario server seemed to have some problem, leaving me with no temporary drivers license, and unsure if my credit card transaction actually went through. In the end I had to personally go to the local Service Ontario office in order to get my temporary drivers license. Service Ontario’s web service really does not work.

The Sell Job

It looked so easy: Service Ontario’s Renew a driver’s licence

Online renewal

If you renew within 28 days of expiry up to 1 year after expiry, you must save, print and sign your temporary driver’s licence at the end of your transaction. For it to be valid, you must carry both your temporary driver’s licence and your existing photo driver’s licence when you drive.

If you renew more than 28 days before expiry, you will get a renewal confirmation at the end of your transaction. Print and save it as proof of renewal until your new driver’s licence arrives in the mail.

And besides, it seems like the MoT no longer sends you a renewal notice, as I did not receive one, and you need this notice to renew in person.

To renew a driver’s licence in person, you need:

  • an original personal identification document showing your name, date of birth and signature (this can include your existing valid driver’s licence)
  • your renewal notice
  • your marriage certificate, if you are applying to change your name to your married name
  • if your licence has been expired for over 1 year you must visit a DriveTest centre

The MoT has a long list of exclusions that force you to renew in person, which for most people will not apply.

The Renewal Form and $90 Payment

I started filling in their form: driver’s license number, Trillium number and postal code. The Trillium number is a 7 digit number at the bottom of your driver’s license with an asterisk before and after the number. My submitted form was approved. I needed to pay then $90CAD, which I did on a 3d party site. Once paid I did not receive a confirmation receipt screen to confirm that the payment went through, nor did I receive an email with a receipt. Next they punted me back to the following screen:

Ontario Drivers License Renewal process failed me. 2017 July 24, Toronto, Canada. Photo 1

Ontario Drivers License Renewal process failed me. 2017 July 24, Toronto, Canada. Photo 1

The Service Ontario Server Failure

It is at this step that it all goes wonky. I try the “Download” button, which launches a blank screen and wait for the server to respond. Then I click the “Temporary Driver’s License PDF” link, which unsurprisingly, launches a blank screen and I wait for the server to respond. After about 5 minutes, this screen is returned for both:

Ontario Drivers License Renewal process failed me. Service Ontario server not working. 2017 July 24, Toronto, Canada. Photo 2

Ontario Drivers License Renewal process failed me. Service Ontario server not working. 2017 July 24, Toronto, Canada. Photo 2

Do not panic I tell myself. I close the two screens and try again, with the same result. Then I receive this screen:

Ontario Drivers License Renewal process failed me. My Drivers License renewal session has expired. 2017 July 24, Toronto, Canada. Photo 3

Ontario Drivers License Renewal process failed me. My Drivers License renewal session has expired. 2017 July 24, Toronto, Canada. Photo 3

My first thoughts were did no payment transaction go through? Followed by: How do I print my temporary driver’s license? Followed by: Was my renewal successful? From this screen none of these questions were answered. I found their “contact us” page and filled it out, detailing my issue with the license renewal and asking if I will receive confirmation that I paid.

The Call Centre

Thankfully I will just call them and ask what to do? There is no phone number on the screen to call. I had to search for that. I did send them an email describing what had happened and what i should do next.

The MoT Call Centre was sympathetic. She had heard this all before, unfortunately. She did confirm that my payment was accepted, and when asked, did email be a receipt for payment. Unfortunately when the server did not respond after 20 minutes, my license renewal session had timed out and I would not be able to download my temporary driver’s license. I could not login and try again. My driver’s license number was now locked out of their system. I would have to personally visit a local Service Ontario office in order to print my temporary driver’s license, and no, the receipt I received in email from her was not sufficient for police purposes.

The Visit to the Service Ontario Office

My visit to the lady at Service Ontario was brief. She had seen this all before. Online renewal goes bad. She makes a call, confirms that I paid and then quickly issues me my temporary driver’s license. Her advice was that next time I should just go to her office and renew, because I’ll be in her office anyway.

There is progress to be made with technology, but it must be thoroughly tested before you let it out on the public. There should be remedial steps someone can take if something breaks down. I think that Service Ontario has not made sufficient effort in their processes to account for things breaking down.

Overall I am dissatisfied with how the online Ontario Drivers License renewal process took place. They received payment and did not send me a receipt, no email confirmation, I could not download or print my temporary drivers license, and I had to personally spend 45 minutes at the local MoT office. Why then, would you want to spend so much taxpayer money to automate a process that eventually forces the user to visit your office and go through the manual process.

Really, the Ontario Government sucks.

Addendum: 2017 Aug 14, I have received a response from the MoT Service Ontario, 20 days later.

Dear Don Tai,

Thank you for contacting ServiceOntario.

If you renew your driver licence online within 28 days of expiry up to 1 year after expiry, you are to save and print your temporary driver licence at the end of your transaction. You must carry this temporary driver licence when you drive.

If you forgot to print or experienced any issues when attempting to print the temporary driver’s licence, you must visit a local ServiceOntario centre to obtain one.

For ServiceOntario locations and hours, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/serviceontario-locations-hours-and-contact

Your driver’s licence should arrive in the mail within 4 to 6 weeks from the date you renewed. If it has been more than 6 weeks and you have not received your new licence in the mail, you will need to visit a local ServiceOntario centre before your temporary licence expires (or before 90 days has passed since your renewal date) to avoid additional costs.

We do not have access to public records. For any information regarding your inquiry, please call:

ServiceOntario Driver and Vehicle Contact Centre
416-235-2999 or 1-800-387-3445 toll-free across Canada
Staff are available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time

To reach an agent, stay on the line for English; then press “1”, press “2”, and press “0”.

We hope you found this information helpful.

Shameran,
Contact Centre Services Branch
ServiceOntario — making it easier
Visit us at: www.serviceontario.ca

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