The Ontario government is investigating a company that claims it can send clients personal records such as birth certificates without them having to wait in line, following a CBC News report detailing complaints about the online business.
CBC's Aaron Saltzman reported on Tuesday about the Civil Processing Bureau (CPB), a website that promises to send government documents for a fee, while allowing people to skip lineups at government buildings.
The Better Business Bureau has received over 20 complaints about CPB and another similar website.
"Basically all they’re doing is forwarding whatever information you give to them directly to the government at a fee that’s approximately twice what the government would charge you directly," said Ric Borski, president of the Better Business Bureau of Mid-Western and Central Ontario.
ServiceOntario — the government agency responsible for documents like birth certificates — has since sent CPB a cease and desist letter.
Ministry to launch awareness campaign
CBC News forwarded the complaints to the province's Ministry of Government Services.
In an email on Wednesday, a senior adviser to the minister thanked the CBC for alerting it to the situation and said a "corporate security official" with ServiceOntario would be contacting the Better Business Bureau to launch an official investigation into CPB.
"We have begun working with the Ministry of Consumer Services to create an awareness notice about third-party companies like CPB that will be posted on the Ministry of Consumer Services' new website," the email stated, adding that the notice will be communicated via social media.
"We plan to work closely with the BBB during the investigation," the spokesperson added.
In his report, Saltzman spoke to one Ontario grandmother who said she thought CPB — which uses official provincial forms — was an actual government site. She applied for her granddaughter’s birth certificate online and paid $200, but said she it took weeks longer to arrive than she said it would have taken had she gone directly through the government portal.
In Ontario, unlike in some provinces such as B.C., third parties cannot apply for official documents.
Websites like the Civil Processing Bureau are also worrisome, Saltzman reported, because it’s unclear what is happening with people’s personal data. He spoke with the man behind the Civil Processing Bureau, who said he deletes the information as soon as he submits it to the government.
Watch Saltzman’s full report by clicking on the video player above.