New Bank Regulations Create 'Wild West' Consumer Complaints System, Say Critics

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Feds set new regulations for bank complaints

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OTTAWA - New regulations aimed at helping Canadians resolve disputes with their banks will create a "Wild West" complaints system favouring the banks themselves, critics warn.

The regulations "create a stronger, more independent consumer complaint system," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The rules will require banks to belong to a federally approved external complaints body, starting in September, where consumers can go if they are unable to resolve their issues directly with the bank.

But that doesn't mean there will be a single, national body to field such complaints.

New Democrat consumer critic Glenn Thibeault said the new rules will instead create a free-for-all complaints system, allowing the banks to pick and choose who fields the grievances.

The rules permit the banks to select whomever they want to work as a complaints overseer, so long as that body is approved by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), Thibeault said.

"Rather than having an independent kind of third-party single banking dispute resolution, you have what we're calling the Wild West of providers," he said.

"The banks can now hire whoever they see fit to actually be their dispute resolution mechanism."

The Public Interest Advocacy Group has also warned that having multiple complaints structures will lead to confusion among consumers and lead to inconsistent results.

Until recently, last-resort consumer complaints about the banks were heard by the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investment (OBSI), a non-profit complaints agency financed by industry members after its creation in 1996.

But the two biggest banks, RBC and TD, pulled out of the agency and instead hired a private mediation firm, ADR Chambers, to handle their consumer complaints. …