Just read the story about how Ontario charges to replace peeling plates that are more than five years old. I just replaced my six-year-old plates for two vehicles at no charge. I didn't ask for it - they did it without questions at a ServiceOntario location. I was more than thrilled. - Richard, Newmarket.
When ServiceOntario told Globe Drive it charges $40 to replace all peeling plates more than five years old, period, it turns out they were using poetic licence.
In the comments of the previous article, some readers wrote they had returned plates for free. And then a mysterious Twitter user, who said he works for ServiceOntario - we'll lamely call him Deep Plate - said that, about six months ago, ServiceOntario sent out a memo allowing staff the ability to give free replacements for older peeling plates.
"After a while, the five year explanation was getting, I guess you could say, unfair," he wrote. "There was a determining date: June 1, 2008."
"Ontario's licence plates are guaranteed by the manufacturer for up to five years," ServiceOntario said in an email statement when we asked about the older plates being replaced. "While we work to determine a root cause, we have given staff the ability in some cases to replace plates outside the warranty period for no charge."
The manufacturer is Trilcor Industries, which is run by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Prisoners at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay make somewhere between 1.4-1.6 million plates a year.
Licence to peel?
The government said it became aware that the laminate film, made by 3M, was peeling off plates in 2012 - but it suspected the problem might go back to 2007.
Since it started keeping track in 2014, about 86,000 plates have been returned for free in Plategate. But, it didn't know how many peeling plates were returned before then - or how many times people had to pay for replacements.
Some other places with a widespread problem have replaced all peeling plates for free. Nova Scotia replaced 3,500 peeling plates - all at no charge. In 2009, the Chicago Tribune wrote that Illinois was alerting owners of 1.1 million plates issued between 2001 and 2003 that they could have a peeling problem.
The plate truth?
To be replaced for free, peeling, bubbling or flaking plates older than five years old have to been issued after mid-2008 and be "clearly affected by this issue, so that it is difficult to read the characters, laminate is worn off in areas of the plate or there is bubbling around the characters," ServiceOntario said.
It's up to ServiceOntario staffers to decide whether a peeling plate should be replaced.
So how long has Ontario been replacing older plates for free?
"Some cases may have been considered in 2014," ServiceOntario said. "However, in fall 2015, all ServiceOntario locations were advised that staff had the ability to replace some plates outside of the warranty period if they met the criteria set out above."
And why didn't the government announce that it's not charging to replace some older peeled plates - or at least tell us when we first asked about the policy? We asked ServiceOntario. It said this is the first time anyone in the press has been told about the change in policy, but it would not say why it hadn't been announced earlier.
Have you had to pay to replace peeling plates in Ontario? If you have, join the conversation and let us know.
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