FCAC Issues Final Version of Guideline on Bank Complaint-Handling
On January 27, 2022, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (“FCAC”) issued its finalized Guideline on Complaint-Handling Procedures for Banks and Authorized Foreign Banks in support of the new Financial Consumer Protection Framework ("FCPF") (see our blogpost series on the FCPF) and related regulations . The new guideline follows a consultation process which ran from October 27, 2021 to December 11, 2021 and is meant to assist Banks in developing and implementing the policies and procedures related to their complaint-handling processes required under section 627.43 of the Bank Act. It will become effective on the same effective date as the FCPF and its regulations come into force, on June 30th, 2022.
Changes of note
The guideline was finalized with little change to the proposed version issued for consultation in the fall; for a summary of the proposed guideline, see here. In the end, while most changes were minor, involving the capitalization of first letters of key words (e.g., “ Bank”, “Employee”, “Designated Employee”, etc.), the correction of syntax errors, the use of the active rather than the passive voice, a handful of modifications was more substantive. These are summarized below.
a. Key principles
While the key principles remained the same, a clarification was made with respect to the oversight responsibility at Authorized Foreign banks, whereby it will fall to senior management to oversee the creation and implementation of complaint-handling policies and procedures.
b. Effectiveness principle
Under the Effectiveness principle, fairness has been added to the consistency requirement in terms of the manner in which Consumer complaints are to be dealt with at all stages of the complaint-handling process. Moreover, complaint-handling policies and procedures will also be expected to support consistency in decision-making, including in circumstances of redress, where appropriate.
The title and “responsibilities” (added) of “any” (as opposed to only those of the Senior Designated Employees), will be required to reflect that their position is one that regularly deals with consumer complaints.
The proposed guideline initially stated that redress “and/or” reimbursement for financial and non-financial “complaints” should be in a manner that is in keeping with, and based on, the circumstances of the complaints. The “or” has been removed from the final version, signifying that Consumers will have the right to both “timely” (added) redress “and” (added) reimbursement for financial and non-financial “impacts” (instead of “complaints”) based on the circumstance of their complaints.
c. Timeliness principle
A new requirement where Banks will have to ensure that their complaint-handling Policies and Procedures provide that the prescribed period starts running on the day the complaint is initially communicated, regardless of the channel used. Further, the 14 calendar day period now starts running from the date on which the complaint is initially “communicated” to the Bank, rather than “received” by it. This change is carried through to paragraph 31 of the guideline as well.
d. Accessibility principle
The final version of the guideline clarifies that all Employees involved in handling complaints, rather than all Employees generally, must know and understand the Bank’s disclosure obligations to Consumers under the Bank Act. It further now provides that a Bank can respond to requests for information electronically, including acknowledging receipt of complaints, provided such requests are submitted in that manner or if the Consumer consents to receiving electronic documents.
Banks must send substantive written responses to Consumers without delay, in circumstances where their complaint is either Closed by an Employee other than a Designated Employee or Closed or Resolved by a Designated Employee. Furthermore, the substantive response must provide the necessary information to allow Consumers to make an informed decision as to whether to submit their complaint to the Bank’s external complaints body. This now includes a statement of fact relating to the complaint and the method used to calculate monetary “or” (rather than “and”) non-monetary redress, if “applicable” (rather than “offered”).
A “Miscellaneous” section was added as the last paragraph of the final guideline, which invites questions related to the guideline to be submitted by email to [email protected] or by mail to the Deputy Commissioner, Supervision and Enforcement Branch at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
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 In-force on June 30, 2022.
 31. Employee may deal with complaints if they are the first point of contact between the Bank and the Consumer, regardless of the channel through which the complaint is communicated to the Bank (for example, in branch, online or over the phone).