Designation of Canada’s single external complaints body for banking
October 17, 2023
Today, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, announced the designation of the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) to serve as Canada’s single external complaints body for banking.
The designation is based on the recommendation of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), following an open and transparent application process. OBSI will assume its responsibilities as Canada’s single external complaints body (ECB) on November 1, 2024, following a transition period of 12 months.
During the transition period, Canada’s two existing ECBs – OBSI and the ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office – will continue to be responsible for handling banking complaints and complying with their obligations to consumers. FCAC will continue to supervise the existing ECBs and monitor their operations and compliance with applicable legal requirements, to ensure a smooth transition with minimal impact on consumers.
The move to a single ECB addresses findings from FCAC’s 2020 report on the Operations of External Complaints Bodies, which concluded that consumers face delays and complications when escalating their banking complaints. FCAC also found that Canada's current multiple-ECB model introduces inefficiencies and complexities and is not consistent with international standards.
OBSI is a national, independent and not-for-profit organization that has been assisting Canadian banking consumers in resolving disputes for over 25 years. As the single ECB, OBSI will be responsible for providing a fair and impartial external process for consumers whose complaints have not been resolved to their satisfaction or dealt with in a timely manner by banks.
“FCAC welcomes the designation of a single external complaints body for banking. When combined with the complaint handling requirements introduced last year under Canada’s Financial Consumer Protection Framework, this change will provide Canadians with a simpler, fairer and more effective complaint handling system in banking. FCAC looks forward to working closely with the current ECBs and banks to ensure an orderly transition.”
Judith Robertson, Commissioner, Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) protects financial consumers by strengthening the financial literacy of Canadians and supervising the compliance of federally regulated entities, including banks and external complaints bodies (ECBs), with their legal obligations, codes of conduct and public commitments.
An ECB is an organization that is independent from banks and that provides a free and impartial review of consumer complaints about banking services and products. An ECB can recommend a resolution of a complaint.
All banks must be a member of an ECB. Under Canada’s current multi-ECB model, Canadian banks must select one of two ECBs approved by the Minister of Finance: the ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office (ADRBO) or the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).
Consumers can ask an ECB to review their complaint if it has not been resolved to their satisfaction through a bank’s internal complaints process, or if 56 days have passed since the bank received the complaint.
New and enhanced protections that benefit Canadians in their dealings with banks took effect in June 2022, under Canada’s Financial Consumer Protection Framework. They include the requirement that banks deal with customer complaints within 56 days, among other measures to strengthen complaint handling.
In Budget 2023, the government announced its intention to strengthen the external complaint handling system in banking by designating a single, not-for-profit, body corporate to be the sole ECB, following an application process led by FCAC. The enabling legislation (Bill C-47) received Royal Assent on June 22, 2023.
FCAC conducted a fair and transparent application process from May 11 to June 26, 2023. As outlined in a public call for applications, applicants were expected to clearly articulate how they meet the requirements to effectively serve as Canada's single ECB. FCAC made its recommendation to the Minister on September 11, 2023, based on an extensive review of application materials and other relevant information.
During the transition to a single ECB, consumers should continue to follow their bank’s process for handling complaints. Banks are required to assist customers in moving their complaints through the different steps of the complaint handling process. This includes their right to escalate a complaint to an ECB. Consumers can also expect to receive clear information from their bank on any changes relating to their right to escalate a complaint.
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
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