FCAC Responds to COVID-19
*Updated Post* as at April 1, 2019
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Yesterday, FCAC Commissioner, Judith Robertson, issued a statement largely reiterating the content of the press release issued last week by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (“FCAC”).
While commending banks a few weeks ago for the actions they have taken to accommodate consumers who may be experiencing financial setbacks, Commissioner Robertson states that FCAC will be turning its focus to monitoring the commitments made by banks and other regulated entities in this regard. She also expects banks and regulated entities to prioritize access to financial services for vulnerable groups who are more likely to be impacted by branch or office closures, such as seniors, low-income and rural households and people with disabilities.
Ms. Robertson also calls on consumers to use care in using telephone banking services to allow those who may be challenged in using digital tools to access these services. She is also asking consumers to exercise caution and to be vigilant about fraudulent activities, such as requests for personal information.
Finally, she announces the creation of a web page, dedicated to COVID-19, to assist consumers in making informed financial decision during this challenging time period.
Post - March 30, 2019
In a press release issued last week, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC/Agency) outlined the measures it is taking in response to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Engagement with Regulated Entities
The FCAC indicated it has ramped up its communication with the entities it regulates to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on their operations and customers.
It praised financial institutions for the measures they are taking to accommodate consumers who may be experiencing temporary financial setbacks due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. Examples mentioned in the press release included providing flexibility on certain payment obligations and waiving fees.
Financial institutions were also commended for doing their part in helping slow the spread of COVID-19 by temporarily closing some of their branches and adjusting the hours of the branches that remain open for business.
The Agency is encouraging financial institutions to ensure consumers continue to have access to financial services at a reasonable cost. It also expects them to make all reasonable efforts to advise consumers of any branch closures and branch hour changes clearly on their websites.
Reprioritization of Work
In the face of COVID-19, FCAC is reprioritizing its supervisory and regulatory work. It is adjusting regulatory expectations while continuing its oversight of market conduct requirements. The Agency also vowed to work with regulated entities to minimize the impact of regulatory requirements on their efforts to deliver services to Canadians, recognizing that they also need to reassign and re-prioritize their own internal resources to respond to COVID-19.
Support for consumers
FCAC is also advising consumers who are facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 them to contact their bank or financial service provider to discuss their particular situation and circumstances. It is also encouraging consumers to avail themselves of its online resources to help them understand their options during this difficult time.
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