We like to be very open with our customers about our fees. Over the past 12 years, most “capped fees” have been frozen. In many cases, the Government of Alberta has increased their fees but has not allowed Registry Agents to increase our fees. This, in conjunction with increased costs (i.e. minimum wage increases, rent, utilities, etc.) has eroded the model to such a point that the network is actually at risk.
Let’s look at Knowledge Test fees as an example. A knowledge test costs $17 in every office in Alberta. From that, $5 goes to the Government of Alberta, and the remaining $12 goes to the Registry Agent. What you may not know is that we used to pay $1.89 to DKTS who is the chosen provider for the provision of Knowledge Testing. As of October 1st, 2017, the cost of these tests has been increased by 50% to $2.83 per test. That means that Registry Agents only keep $9.17 per knowledge test.
That’s right – even as many Albertans struggle to get by and Registry Agents are earning the same fees that they have been collecting for 12 years, Service Alberta decided to give DKTS a 50% increase. What do they care? The fees come out of registry agent’s pockets, not the GOA’s.
From this $9.17, we have to pay the person who prints the permit (she or he has to check several screens to ensure eligibility, authenticate identity, verify residency and legal entitlement, parental permissions for a minor, collect payment, set up the test on the computer station, etc.). We also have overhead costs like electricity (hello, carbon tax) and the capital costs of being forced to replace all of our machines in one fell swoop at a cost of $1000 per machine, as per the above agreement which Service Alberta entered into with DKTS without involving Registry Agents.
In addition, we have to pay someone in our office to make sure that there is no cheating. Unfortunately, cheating on tests has increased in the past few years and new technology makes it more difficult for us to catch people who are cheating. We have people using FaceTime on phones strapped on a lanyard to their chests and use an earbud to connect to someone who is feeding them answers. This is a public safety issue – the roads simply are not safe if there are people driving on them who don’t know the meaning of signs or basic rules of the road. Registries Plus has an excellent working relationship with Transportation and with the Special Investigations Unit. We are often ask to create alerts, monitor tests, contact SIU about suspected cheating, monitor videotape and burn footage to disk and provide statements about fraud. It’s a lot of work, but we are happy to do it because our kids are riding on the same roads as your kids.
Albertans need to know that Service Alberta is acting unilaterally and in bad faith with Registry Agents. We have the shortest wait times and the lowest service fees in all of Canada. Our staff are pleasant and welcoming and we make sure your personal information is kept safe. We make sure that only people who have demonstrated the required knowledge and skills are allowed to drive on Alberta’s roads. Most registry agents are open six or seven days a week. We open before you go to work and stay open after you finish because we know you can’t take time off work to renew your plates. But all of this is at risk because the GOA doesn’t want to be realistic and pragmatic – they prefer to make decisions based on ideology and enter into agreements with vendors without understanding the details or potential effects.
If you support your local Registry Agent and want to make sure that we are here to serve you long into the future, please talk to your MLA and let him or her know that you support your Registry Agent and you want Service Alberta to act swiftly and in good faith to make sure that your local agent’s doors can stay open.