How to make a complaint to a financial institution

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

If you have an issue with a federally regulated financial institution (FRFI), you have the right to make a complaint by using its complaint-handling process.

Find out if your financial institution is federally regulated.

This process usually has 4 steps, although some institutions may only have 2 or 3 steps.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) provides the complaint-handling process for all FRFIs online.

Find the complaint-handling process for your financial institution.

Before you make your complaint, you should:

  • write down the problem in order to communicate all the facts clearly
  • gather all supporting documentation with specific dates and names
  • think about the resolution you’re seeking, for example, a reimbursement amount, restored access to a product, etc.

When you’re ready to make your complaint, follow the steps below to resolve it.

Step 1

Ask a representative at your branch to assist you with your complaint. You can also talk to someone from your financial institution’s call centre or its online chat function.

Make sure you have all your information available when you speak with the representative.

If you’re not satisfied with the resolution they offer, be proactive and ask for a written response by mail or email.

Ask the representative to include the following information:

  • details of the complaint
  • the financial institution’s proposed resolution
  • an explanation for the proposed resolution

At this point, you can ask the representative how to escalate your complaint to the next step.

Step 2

The second step is your financial institution’s complaint-handling department which specializes in resolving consumer complaints. This is sometimes called the “client relations function” or “customer care”.

Again, if you’re not satisfied with the resolution offered at this step, you should ask for a detailed written response by mail or email.

It’s important to note that if your complaint hasn’t been resolved within 90 days after it’s been escalated to the second step, you can go directly to step 4.

Step 3

If your complaint can’t be resolved at step 2, you can ask to escalate it to the third step of the complaint-handling process. At this stage, you will be dealing with the most senior officer responsible for consumer complaints. This step is meant to be independent from the first 2.

Step 4

If your complaint can’t be resolved after going through the internal steps, you can escalate it to the financial institution’s External Complaints Body (ECB).

There are 2 ECBs:

  • the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI)
  • ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds (ADRBO)

Find out more about ECBs and how to make a complaint with them.

Provincial regulators

Depending on the type of financial products or services involved, for example, an investment affiliate, you may also have to contact your provincial regulator.

Find the provincial regulator for your province.

FCAC’s role

Part of FCAC's role is to ensure that federally regulated financial institutions have a complaint-handling process in place.

You can contact FCAC if you can't find information about your financial institution's complaint-handling process or if you're experiencing delays when using it.

Please keep in mind that FCAC doesn’t provide redress or compensation and can’t get involved in individual disputes.

Learn about FCAC’s expectations for financial institutions when dealing with complaints.

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