External complaints bodies: rights and responsibilities

From Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

What are external complaints bodies?

External complaints bodies (ECBs ) are organizations that are independent from the banks and federal credit unions (hereafter referred to collectively as "banks"). They deal with customer complaints about banking services and products. All banks must be a member of an ECB.

ECBs have been approved in accordance with the Bank Act to handle customer complaints. ECBs provide a free and impartial review of complaints. Complaints must fall within the ECB’s Terms of Reference. The Terms of Reference define how an ECB operates and the types of services it provides. Contact the ECB for information about its Terms of Reference.

You have certain rights when filing a complaint with a bank. All banks must have a complaint–handling process in place for consumers. ECBs are part of this process. You may ask the ECB for a review of your complaint if you have been unable to resolve it using your bank’s internal complaint-handling process. The ECB can recommend a resolution for your complaint.

How do I file a complaint with an external complaints body?

Take these steps when filing a complaint:

  • ​follow your bank’s complaint-handling process. FCAC’s complaint-handling process search tool can help you find the ​complaint-handling process and ECB for your bank
  • contact your bank’s ECB to file a complaint if:
    • ​​​​​the bank takes more than 90 days to respond to your complaint, as specified in the ECBs Terms of Reference, or
    • you are not satisfied with the bank’s final response to your complaint

​​​​What if I have filed a complaint with the wrong external complaints body?

Banks can choose which ECB they want to belong to. Your bank must tell you which ECB to contact.

If you make a complaint with the wrong ECB, that ECB must give you the name and contact information of the correct ECB for your bank.

What if my bank changes its external complaints body after I have filed my complaint?​

​​A bank may change its ECB. If your bank has changed its ECB, the previous ECB must transfer existing complaints to your bank’s new ECB. This includes all information related to the complaints. The new ECB must let you know, without delay, once your file has been transferred to it.  

​ECBs must follow Canadian privacy laws when transferring your file. For more information about federal privacy laws, contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Can I file a complaint with an external complaints body if I have already taken legal action?

ECBs are not part of the court system. They will not usually investigate a complaint if it is the subject of a court action. Contact the ECB for more information.  

What are my rights when dealing with external complaints bodies?

ECBs must:

  • provide its services to you free of charge in either English or French
  • ensure that any person who works on your complaint, or acts on behalf of an ECB, is impartial and independent from both you and the bank
  • tell you how they deal with complaints
  • provide you, upon request, with any extra information (for example, the ECB’s Terms of Reference) you may need to understand the complaint process
  • tell you in writing, within 30 days after receiving your complaint, if all or part of your complaint is outside of the services they provide.  The ECBs’ services are listed in its Terms of Reference
  • make a final written recommendation, to you and the bank, within 120 days after receiving all the information needed to deal with the complaint

What is FCAC’s role?

Organizations must apply to become an ECB. FCAC oversees this process.

All organizations who wish to become ECBs must complete and submit their application to FCAC. The application must meet the requirements in the Application Guide for External Complaint Bodies and the regulations.

Once approved by the federal government, ECBs must continue to meet regulatory standards to maintain their approval status. FCAC also oversees this requirement.

FCAC cannot:

  • ​Get involved in individual disputes
  • Overturn the recommendation made by an external complaints body
  • Provide compensation

You have rights when dealing with an ECB​.  If you feel that an ECB is not respecting your rights, contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

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