Canada’s financial consumer watchdog fined Rogers Bank $250,000 for failing to obtain consent before providing its customers with credit cards, and failing to confirm consent in writing when it was provided orally, from 2013 to 2019.
In announcing the ruling May 6, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) reported that these practices violated the Negative Option Billing Regulations and fined the bank $175,000 for the lack of consent and $75,000 for improperly confirming consent. The FCAC report also notes the bank does not dispute the findings, but also has not paid the proposed penalties.
The FCAC investigation followed a regular audit of consumer complaint files. It found more than 90 per cent of reviewable complaints related to lack of express consent. More detailed investigations confirmed that consent was not properly attained. Further review showed deficiencies in the bank’s policies and procedures, training and documentation, including welcome information sent to new credit card customers.
FCAC staff was unable to determine the number of customers affected, and the amount of harm that resulted from the violations, in part because of deficiencies in the bank’s data collection and controls.
The FCAC report indicates the bank asserted that no customer suffered direct financial harm as remediation was undertaken. The FCAC report, authored by Commissioner Judith Robertson, countered that “this narrow Interpretation of harm is not in keeping with the purpose of the regulations” and that “any product provided without express consent is, in and of itself, evidence of harm as the customer’s rights have not been respected.” It also added that “deficiencies which resulted in the violations were longstanding and not self-identified.”
The report indicates Rogers Bank procedures have been compliant since the middle of 2019.
Rogers Bank also objected to being named in the publication of the findings, but Robertson concluded that publication would encourage the bank to continue its program of compliance improvement, that “the lack of data from the Bank hampered a clear determination of the true scale of the violations” and that publication also serves to “increase the understanding of the importance of the requirement to express consent within the financial community and amongst consumers.”
FCAC also recently fined RBC $350,000 and Bank of Montreal $500,000 for consent-related failures to respect consumer rights.