Today, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) released the results of its review of banks’ procedures for handling consumer complaints and its review of the operations of external complaints bodies (ECBs).
FCAC found that while banks resolve the majority of complaints quickly and to the consumer’s satisfaction, consumers also face delays and complications when escalating their complaint beyond the first point of contact. Escalation procedures put the onus on consumers to navigate a complex system that is slow and cumbersome, resulting in a significant proportion of these consumers becoming dissatisfied and abandoning their complaint.
FCAC found that, while the external complaints bodies meet most of the regulatory requirements, there are deficiencies and opportunities for improvement and areas where the ECBs could follow more closely international best practices. The review also validated some of the broader concerns raised by consumer representatives about the multiple ECB structure.
The reports identify a number of deficiencies in the policies, procedures and operations of banks and ECBs. The Agency will address these deficiencies through its supervision work. In addition, the new Financial Consumer Protection Framework will require banks to ensure their consumer complaints procedures are satisfactory to the FCAC Commissioner, providing another tool to promote better complaint handling.
Impartial and effective complaint handling is important to ensure consumer confidence and trust in financial institutions. FCAC will continue its work in making sure that both banks and the ECBs comply with relevant consumer protection measures.
“A critical element in a well-functioning financial system is an efficient and effective method for consumers to get their problems resolved. Mistakes will happen, but when the process works well, it builds trust and confidence in financial institutions and in the system of oversight. FCAC’s supervisory work will ensure that both banks and ECBs comply with the consumer protection provisions and improve the process for resolving disputes.”
Judith Robertson, Commissioner, Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
FCAC is committed to protecting financial consumers by monitoring trends and emerging issues, and examining industry practices that may impact the delivery of financial products and services.
In Canada, the resolution system for bank complaints uses a combination of internal bank complaint handling procedures (CHPs) and external complaint bodies (ECBs).
FCAC estimates that more than 5 million consumers file at least one complaint with a bank every year.
FCAC found that 76% of complaints were resolved at the first point of contact.
FCAC estimates that more than 90% of consumers whose complaint was not resolved to their satisfaction at the first point of contact did not escalate their complaint, suggesting the escalation process is not straightforward or easy for consumers.
Most consumers are not aware of ECBs.
FCAC reviewed the complaint handling procedures of Canada’s six largest banks (Bank of Montreal, The Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada and The Toronto-Dominion Bank).
FCAC assessed whether banks have implemented the policies and procedures required to handle complaints in an effective, accessible and timely manner.
FCAC reviewed both external complaints bodies: ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds (ADRBO) and the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).
FCAC examined whether the ECBs were executing their functions in a manner consistent with their obligations.