How to file a complaint with your financial institution
By law, federally regulated financial institutions (banks and federally regulated trust, loan and insurance companies) are required to have a procedure for handling complaints. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) also has set specific expectations for these financial institutions regarding their procedures for handling complaints. The following information incorporates both the legislative requirements and the expectations set out in FCAC’s Guideline.
Learn more about FCAC’s Guideline on Complaint-Handling Procedures.
If you have a problem with a federally regulated financial institution, you have the right to make a complaint. You can do so by using its complaint-handling process.
Find out if your financial institution is federally regulated.
The complaint-handling process may be slightly different from one financial institution to another. However, when filing a complaint, they all must provide you with a written acknowledgment of the date they received the complaint. They must provide information about their process, including your right to submit a complaint to an external complaints body (ECB) and how to contact the ECB and FCAC. They must also assist you in moving your complaint through the different steps of the complaint-handling process.
Find the complaint-handling process for your financial institution.
Before you file your complaint, you should:
- review your financial institution’s complaint-handling process
- write down the problem so you can communicate the facts clearly
- gather supporting details with specific dates and names
- think about the resolution you’re seeking, for example, a reimbursement amount
Below is an example of the steps you may follow when filing a complaint with your financial institution.
Step 1: speaking to a representative
Ask a representative of your financial institution to assist you with your complaint. This can be someone from its branch, its call centre or its online chat function.
Make sure you have all the complaint details with you when you speak to the representative. Explain the problem and provide any supporting details.
If you’re satisfied with the resolution they offer, you don’t need to continue to the next steps.
If you’re not satisfied with the resolution, ask them to refer your complaint to the next step in their process.
FCAC expects banks (including federal credit unions) and authorized foreign banks to deal with your complaint in a timely manner. This means that if the representative hasn’t resolved or closed your complaint within 14 days, they should refer your complaint to an employee who is designated to deal with complaints. If the bank closes your complaint within 14 days and you’re not satisfied, you have the right to escalate it to the next step in the bank’s process.
Step 2: dealing with your financial institution's complaint-handling department
If your complaint is referred to the next step, you should be dealing with your financial institution’s complaint-handling department. In the case of a bank, you could also be dealing with a designated employee (as noted in step 1).
At step 2, if you’re still not satisfied with the resolution they offer, you should ask for a detailed response by mail or email. FCAC requires banks to provide you with a detailed written response. That should happen when the bank considers the complaint to be closed or resolved.
A bank has a maximum of 56 days to deal with your complaint. Note that this period includes the 14 days indicated at step 1. You can escalate your complaint to the ECB they’re a member of (step 3) if:
- they don’t resolve your complaint to your satisfaction within 56 days of receiving it
- they close your file and you’re not satisfied with the resolution they offer
Your complaint may be with a federally regulated trust and loan or insurance company. In that case, if it hasn’t been resolved within 90 days after step 2, you can go to step 3.
Step 3: escalating your complaint to an external organization
If your complaint isn’t resolved to your satisfaction after steps 1 and 2, you can escalate it to an external organization. If you’re dealing with a bank, you can take your complaint to the external complaints body (ECB) it is a member of. If you’re dealing with a trust and loan or insurance company, you can take it to the independent complaint-handling organization it is a member of.
Banks and authorized foreign banks must be a member of one of the following two ECBs:
Learn more about external complaints bodies and how to file a complaint with them.
Federally regulated insurance companies must be subject to or a member of an external organization that deals with complaints. They use one of the following two complaints organizations:
- OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OLHI), for life and health insurance companies
- General Insurance OmbudService (GIO), for property and casualty insurance companies
Provincial and territorial regulators
You may have to contact your provincial or territorial regulator to help you deal with your complaint. It will depend on the financial institution and the type of financial product or service involved. For example, if you purchased investments from a securities dealer owned by a bank.
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s role
FCAC investigates complaints about financial institutions that relate to possible breaches of market conduct obligations. These can be a breach of a law, regulation, code of conduct or public commitment. This includes the federally regulated financial institutions’ obligation to have a complaint-handling process in place.
Contact FCAC if you can't find your financial institution's complaint-handling process or if you experience delays when using it.
Keep in mind that FCAC does not resolve individual disputes and does not provide redress or compensation.
Learn more about how FCAC handles your complaint.
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