Alberta government robocalls tell vehicle owners to sign up for online vehicle registration reminders

The owners of 3.7 million vehicles in Alberta will receive robocalls to remind them to sign up for electronic registration reminders after the paper reminders were discontinued five months ago.

'Wait a minute. Why didn’t I get a notice?' asks driver who got ticket

John Horrigan thinks the province should have waited before discontinuing mailed paper registration reminders. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The owners of 3.7 million vehicles in Alberta will receive robocalls to remind them to sign up for electronic registration reminders after the paper reminders were discontinued five months ago.

"This is a message from the government of Alberta," the recording states. "You will no longer be receiving renewal reminders for vehicle registrations, driver's licences and ID cards in the mail."

In March, the province announced a plan to save taxpayers $3 million a year by switching to electronic reminders for vehicle registrations, licences and identification cards. It went into effect a month later.

Vehicle registrations in Alberta have a regular annual expiry month. The expiry months are determined by the first letter or two of the owner's surname or company name.

For example, owners whose surnames start with "H" see their registrations expire at the end of June, while owners whose surnames start with "Gr" have their plates expire at the end of August. The expiry month is displayed in a corner of the vehicle's licence plate.

According to the province, there's been a 62-per-cent increase in renewals since the end of the paper reminders. Between April 1 and Aug. 31, about 1.2 million registrations were renewed, compared to 446,875 in the same period last year.

Owners of 2.5 million vehicles still haven't renewed, but that may be because they aren't due for renewal yet. The robocalls are an added push to make sure vehicle owners don't forget.

Stephanie McLean, the Minister of Service Alberta, says the province's switch to electronic renewals has been a success. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean says the 62-per-cent increase in renewals is encouraging.

"It makes you wonder why that number was lower when we were sending out paper," said McLean. " But that goes to show that the paper reminder isn't necessary to ensure that Albertans are renewing."

Not everyone thinks the switch was a success.

On Thursday, John Horrigan was driving on 97th Street in Edmonton when he was pulled over. The officer informed him that his vehicle registration had expired in June. He received a $310 fine for driving with an expired registration.

"When I got out of the car and looked, I was like, 'Wait a minute, why didn't I get a notice?' " said Horrigan.

He had been waiting for the paper reminder that he used to get in the mail.

He's hoping to fight the ticket, and calls the switch unfair to those who were unaware of the move to online reminders.

"They should have continued the policy for another year and put notices with the renewal forms that said, 'This is the last one you will receive. Next year it's up to you."

Days after he got his ticket, Horrigan received a voicemail of the robocall.

McLean says the excuse of not knowing about the change won't save drivers from getting an expired registration ticket,

"The excuse or reason that Albertans have used of 'Oh, I just didn't know,' has always been used, no matter how they were reminded."

Albertans can sign up for the electronic reminders on the Service Alberta website, or in person at a registry. Tens of thousands of Alberta Motor Association members have skipped the reminders altogether by signing up for automatic registration renewal.

People with disabilities will continue to receive reminders in the mail. Those over the age of 70 will receive mailed reminders until April 1, 2017.

The robocalls started on Thursday. It will take 2 weeks for the system to call all Albertans with active vehicle registrations.