G2 and G driver’s test appointments at provincially-regulated driving centres in Ontario are at a premium.
COVID-19 caused DriveTest centres to shut down in-vehicle passenger road tests for months. When the service reopened on June 14, driving students rushed to snatch a spot — creating a backlog of 700,000 tests.
Amid the sea of drivers wanting to get their licence, Delano Anderson patiently awaits his turn.
“It’s been difficult,” the North York man told Global over Zoom. “Myself and my family have been talking about getting a car, and you can’t get a car without a license.”
Anderson’s license expired in 2019. When he checked for road test appointments in July, he said they were booking into November in areas almost an hour and a half away.
On Aug. 6, Global News accessed Ontario’s booking system at DriveTest.ca. The waiting queue to view available test dates was two hours and seven minutes. Afterwards, an email verification was required and Global was placed in another waiting queue for almost two hours. The website then failed to redirect to available appointments.
“I gave up,” Anderson said after his July search. Then he noticed something online.
One seller told Global News over text message they can book an early spot for $100 plus tax. The payment would be made after a confirmation email was received.
A spot for Aug. 4 was going up for $300 — straight profit for the sellers, and cash that some customers appear to be willing to spend.
“Its crazy. It was just really kind of bizarre to see that people on social media were able to find appointments and availabilities, but if you go on the government’s website or the driving centre’s, you’re not able to find anything,” said Anderson.
According to the Ontario Safety League (OSL), there are ongoing road test appointment scams where sellers have no intention of providing a test spot after receiving payment.
However, some say other sellers may be legitimate … and OSL says the way they obtain those tests is a national problem.
“Its fraudulent activity undertaken by some of those who have access to the system,” said Brian Patterson, president and CEO of OSL.
Patterson says some driving schools are using new student’s information without their consent to book road tests in mass — only to swap the dates with a customer later. The students may never even be aware tests were booked under their name.
“There are significant privacy issues involved … everybody should be entitled to fair access to the tests that are available, and corrupting the system is unfair to all Ontarians,” said Patterson.
Ryan Manilla, traffic and criminal defence lawyer with Legal Solutions Law Firm, says sellers who do this may land themselves a fraud charge, if police can prove an infraction took place.
“They’re using somebody else’s identity without their knowledge or consent … that certainly is not permissible by law, ” said Manilla.
Still, there are other reports of sellers who are not affiliated with driving schools who are allegedly booking individual tests using their own information, and then cancelling and swiftly rebooking when a customer comes along.
“If they’re plugging in legitimate information for a legitimate person, my position is that is legal,” said Manilla, though this may not always be the case depending on the circumstances of the case.
“They’re technically providing a service.”
Buying the appointment is also not considered a criminal act, Manilla said.
In an email to Global News, Kristine Bunker from the Ministry of Transportation said:
“DriveTest.ca is the only official window for booking your road test … The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and DriveTest.ca are not responsible for road test appointments booked through third-party websites and cannot guarantee that those appointments will be honoured.”
The Ministry added: “You should never give your driver’s licence to a third party or an unknown website. DriveTest will never charge you an additional fee to book or reschedule a road test.”
Bunker says the ministry has implemented a number of “IT enhancements” to help curb bots and third party sellers, including a time limit for booking a road test, and eliminating the ability to switch test dates between drivers. The DriveTest portal indicates that time limit is 45 minutes.
MTO says due to the pandemic, driver’s licences that expired on or after March 1, 2020 will remain valid and legal past expiry, until further notice.
As for addressing the backlog, the Ministry says it will be opening six temporary test centres at locations where demand is highest:
- Hamilton (serving Niagara),
- Northern York / Durham,
- Mississauga / Brampton,
- Eastern Durham Region,
- Guelph (serving Kitchener-Waterloo and Milton),
- and Toronto.
The centres will operate seven days a week, with 251 temporary examiners hired by September, Bunker said.
Patterson says anyone who spots a drive test appointment sold on a third-party site should report it to the MTO or the OSL.
Meanwhile, Anderson won’t be throwing his coin at any of the appointments offered online.
“When I see something like that online, I don’t necessarily trust it,” he said.