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Limited services at Quebec auto insurance board leaves driver without car

Click to play video: 'Quebec motorists on edge as SAAQ services limited during digital shift'
Quebec motorists on edge as SAAQ services limited during digital shift
WATCH: Quebecers looking to buy a used car or renew their driver's license may soon be seeing red. The province's automobile insurance board is pausing most services for nearly one month as it undergoes a digital transformation to update its website in a move to facilitate transactions. But as Gloria Henriquez reports, what the board calls short-term pain for long-term gain is driving some customers crazy. – Jan 31, 2023

Quebec’s automobile insurance board is undergoing a massive overhaul of its online platform, meaning several services are currently unavailable, and the transition has left some drivers without a way to get around.

The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) has suspended multiple services during the conversion period, which started Jan. 26, until the launch on Feb. 20.

“We are in a digital transformation,” said Gino Desrosiers, spokesperson for the SAAQ. He said some of the agency’s old systems date back as far as the 1980s and need to be updated.

The goal, Desrosiers said, is to offer Quebecers a more modern experience and to be able to provide some of its services online and cut waiting times at SAAQ outlets. The transition work is being carried out 24 hours per day to convert upwards of 10 billion pieces of data in time for the launch, he added.

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During the next few weeks, only some of the SAAQ’s regular offerings are available. For example, a driver cannot register a new vehicle. Car dealerships must provide anyone who buys a car with a temporary registration certificate until the SAAQ is fully back up and running later next month.

For Kathy Sansouci, that doesn’t help at all. She bought a van from another person, not a dealership, but when they showed up to finalize the transaction at an SAAQ outlet Tuesday, it couldn’t be done.

She recently had surgery and needs the vehicle to be able to get around with her children.

“We’re upset, we’re mad,” she said. “We don’t know what to do. We need a car.”

The SAAQ didn’t properly plan for the transition phase, Souci said.

“You guys decide to change a system that has been (around) since the 1980s, fine. I understand but think of all of us, the customers,” she said.

Meanwhile, other services usually offered by the SAAQ remain off limits too.

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Novice drivers who have completed their driving courses cannot apply and obtain their learner permit. The automobile insurance board will also not issue certificates for winter tire exemptions.

Quebecers who want to replace or renew their health insurance card cannot go in person to an SAAQ outlet during the transition phase. Anyone who needs to do so must contact the province’s health insurance board, the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec.

The SAAQ says multiple services are still available right now, including replacing a lost or stolen license, releasing a car from seizure and road vehicle inspections. A full list can be found online.

The board says that its new online platform will be up and running on Feb. 20 and outlets remain open for “essential services” until that date.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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