The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) review into banks’ external complaint-handling has been submitted to the government and should become public in early 2020.
FCAC was asked to review banks’ complaints-handling processes and the effectiveness of the external complaints bodies by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement. In a recently published article in the Financial Post, new FCAC commissioner Judith Robertson confirmed the report’s completion and its early 2020 release.
Canadian banks have been allowed to choose third-party firms to provide dispute resolution rather than require them to use the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments, which was originally established to serve that purpose. Royal Bank (2008), TD Bank (2011) and Scotiabank (2018) have all opted to use a different dispute resolution provider approved by FCAC.
Consumers Council of Canada has published a number of papers on the issue, including a discussion paper in 2018 that favoured making OBSI a single dispute resolution provider, and called the policy that allowed firms to select their own arbiters “a flawed policy that has led to an uneven playing field among banking competitors and between banks and consumers.” In a release from that year, Council chairman Don Mercer said “the federal government needs to protect bank customers by mandating a single impartial, non-profit external complaints body – a right that should be restored to them promptly.” An early 2012 publication adds additional historical detail.
Robertson also told the Financial Post that FCAC is looking forward to working with the new Canadian Consumer Advocate, whenever details of that office emerge. That position was an element in the Liberals’ fall election campaign platform and included in the list of priorities given to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains in mandate letters released December 13.
While that mandate letter said the new authority would “ensure a single point of contact for people who need help with federally regulated banking, telecom or transportation-related complaints,” Robertson indicated that “it’s understood that the FCAC has the regulatory responsibility over banks with regard to complaint handling, so we will continue our efforts there.”