Marrying price hikes with profit announcements has delivered Canada’s major banks the kind of earned media coverage only Scrooge would love.
The double-barrelled announcements – your bank fees are rising, and so are bank profits – may have cheered those involved in shareholder relations, but had the opposite effect on customer relations.
Bank customers, particulalry depositors with less money who have suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic, are reacting much less favourably to the higher transaction fees, and requirements to increase account balances in order to lower those fees.
Canadians have been contacting the national broadcaster, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to complain. Persistent expressions of consumers’ anger made frustration with Canada’s banks the lead story on Wednesday night’s edition of The National, the corporation’s flagship news show.
The CBC reported that one of the top questions asked of them by complainants was: “Is there any way we can stop this?”
The consumer unrest spilled onto the floor of the House of Commons on Wedneday, as well, with the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, asking the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau what he would do about the banks’ conduct. Radio talk shows began taking up the topic.
The Trudeau government only recently completed a review of Canada’s Bank Act, which did strengthen some areas of federal oversight of the banks, but did not touch fee setting or make reforms to the country’s system of banking dispute resolution sought by consumer and investor rights advocates.
The parliamentary tongue lashing of Trudeau about bank fees took place notwithstanding the fact Trudeau himself ordered his ministers two years ago to establish a Canadian Consumer Advocate, to deal with the rising level of consumer complaints in federally regulated sectors of the economy, such as banking, telecommunications and transportation.
No discernible action has been taken by federal government departments to act on his direction to ministers to establish the Advocate. Although, the relatively new Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada recently has been more assertive, naming and shaming banks for marketplace regulatory infractions, some of which occurred over many years.
A national petition to the House of Commons supporting an expanded role for such an advocate reached the necessary level of support to have it brought to the floor of the House and remains open for signatures until the morning of June 9. The number of signatories rose overnight on news of the bank fee increases.