B.C. licence plate decals are going missing on Vancouver Island

B.C. licence plate decals are going missing on Vancouver Island
WatchIt's a sticky situation for many of us renewing our insurance over the phone or online, as licence plate decals go missing all over the Island. Jasmine Bala has more.

Curtis Clarke helped his grandmother renew her vehicle insurance over the phone at the end of April.

It’s one of the new measures put in place by the province to encourage social distancing during the pandemic.

The papers were emailed to Clarke and the licence plate decal was mailed to his grandmother’s Oak Bay address.

But four months later, the decal still hasn’t arrived in the mail.

“My grandma, being a typical grandma [at] 92, she was worried from the day we did it,” Clarke said. “She was checking her mail daily.”

After waiting for four weeks, the alarm bells started to go off.

“We kind of expected with COVID-19 it would be a bit delayed,” he explained. “[But] it was only coming from Vancouver, so it shouldn’t take that long.”

Clarke isn’t the only one who has had a decal go missing.

Since the province allowed decals to be mailed to customers in March, police departments across Vancouver Island have been receiving reports of mailed-out decals gone missing.

Oak Bay Police Department has received nine reports of decals missing in the mail since April 1, while the Saanich Police Department has received 82 reports since April 20 – the highest of any law enforcement agency that responded to CHEK.

Const. Markus Anastasiades of Saanich PD said the department is also receiving reports of people receiving the package but no decal.

“We’ve been hearing both accounts, where they’ve received documents, however, the decal wasn’t included in their package or the other case is that the package hasn’t arrived at all and they’ve been waiting several weeks for the package to arrive,” he said.

Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, Comox Valley RCMP has received 59 reports and the North Cowichan RCMP has received 12 reports.

West Shore RCMP and Campbell River RCMP both told CHEK they have received reports as well but didn’t know exactly how many. Victoria Police Department, Nanaimo RCMP and Oceanside RCMP did not respond to CHEK’s requests for data prior to publication.

What to do if your decal doesn’t arrive in the mail?

Missing decals must be reported to the police before they can be replaced. It is recommended that people wait 30 days for their decals to arrive in the mail before reporting them missing to the police as well as the broker who mailed them.

ICBC will not charge a replacement fee if people provide them with a police report or file number. Prior to the pandemic, the fee to replace a missing or misplaced decal was $18.

“Give your broker a call if you haven’t received your decal in 30 days. Call your local police, the non-emergency line, to report it and then call your broker back and they will send you a new decal,” said Meghan Hill, senior manager of customer experience delivery at BCAA.

Joanna Linsangan, a spokesperson with ICBC, told CHEK there is no charge or replacement fee if people the broker with a police report or file number. She also said ICBC is aware that some people have had issues receiving their decals in the mail and that some brokers are providing customers with different options.

“The challenge that they experienced was the delivery of the decals,” she said, adding, “What we found though for the brokers, is that the majority of them did mail them but . . . we also saw brokers use couriers, registered mail and some were open to having their customers pick them from their offices for a no-contact pickup.”

ICBC, however, has no plans to impose rules around the delivery of decals.

“We have left it to them as to select the best method of delivery of the decals,” said Linsangan.

Linsangan added that ICBC has advised law enforcement that this is something they may potentially see out on the road.

“We informed them that there may be a delay in delivering a decal to a customer,” she explained. “So if they were to see a vehicle on the road with a supposed expired decal, that may not actually be the case and in fact they may be driving around with an expired decal simply due to the fact that they are waiting for the new decal to arrive.”

Decals could be phased out in the future

Most Canadian provinces issue renewal decals to motorists, however, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories abandoned the practice years ago – an idea B.C. is considering.

“It may be — depending on engagement with, for example, law enforcement — that it’s better not to have a decal at all. There are many jurisdictions that don’t have decals like this,” David Eby, the province’s attorney general, said during a debate in the legislature on July 15.

The provincial government has introduced legislation, which if passed, would allow decals to become non-expiring or valid beyond 12 months. That legislation, according to Eby, will also open the door to the possibility of B.C. no longer using decals.

“It depends on our engagement with groups, like law enforcement, that depend, potentially, on the decal to know whether a car is insured or not. Or maybe they use their licence plate readers and a database, and they don’t look at the decals at all,” said Eby.

B.C. first introduced licence plate decals in 1970 as a way for motorists to show that their vehicle was registered and insured. By the early ’90s, motorists were required to display two decals – one showing the month and year of expiry and the other showing the day of expiry – on the rear licence plate.

Data available on ICBC’s website shows that there were 3,880,234 vehicles registered in British Columbia last year and according to Christopher Garrish, creator of bcpl8s.ca and author of Tales from the Back Bumper: A Century of B.C. Licence Plates, approximately 6 million decals are issued annually, costing the province an estimated $500,000.

Meanwhile, Eby said ditching decal requirements could cut costs, but provided no specific numbers. He also suggested that the move could be part of the government’s attempt to modernize ICBC and establish a system where people could renew online through ICBC.

“We’re engaged in a modernization project with ICBC. Part of that includes an online renewal system. We are continually moving the pieces down the board to turn ICBC into a modern insurance company,” he said on July 15, later adding, “My hope is a more efficient process for everybody, where everybody wins, resulting in lower fees and reduced cost for consumers, and we do believe there will be some savings for ICBC. But at this stage, it is too soon to say.”

But before any online renewal system is implemented, Eby said the government wants to have more conversations about the future of decals.

“There’s engagement with stakeholders — like law enforcement, brokers and others — around the issues of the decals that also need to take place. So until that work is done, people will not be visiting a website to do their renewals,” he said.

READ: Nanaimo RCMP receiving ‘numerous’ calls about vehicles with U.S. licence plates

Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod
Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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