This is the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s explanation of the federal government’s document Canada’s Financial Consumer Protection Framework: Consultation Paper , released 3 December 2013.
You have until 28 February 2013 to reply. We really want you to. Please read on to see how!
What’s Happening?
The Canadian federal government (the Department of Finance, to be exact) is asking what you think about banking, what problems you may have had with banks, and what you would like them to do about it. They are thinking of creating a “Financial Consumer Code” to tell the banks what rules consumers think they should follow to be a responsible bank in Canada.
First, please read the government’s own consultation paper Canada’s Financial Consumer Protection Framework: Consultation Paper . This is the official consultation document and has the exact wording.
This document explains more briefly what the government is asking because we at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre want all Canadians to tell the government what they think banking rules should be, so that they get the best banking services possible. However, please read the government consultation paper for the full set of questions asked.
Why Should You Care?
Because it’s your money. Banking is, at its simplest, you loaning your money to the bank for safekeeping until you need it back. These are your deposits and most Canadians have a bank account for just that purpose. From there we add the convenience of chequing so we can pay for things without the need for cash. Banks issue credit cards from major credit card systems so we can make even more payments. Many Canadians also have a major loan from the bank: their mortgage. Finally, many Canadians use electronic banking to make their bill payments and other banking affairs quicker and easier to manage.
We’ve all dealt with these aspects of banking, likely on a daily basis. This is an opportunity to make a real change in the banking industry. The Government wants to hear your thoughts on the system. If you’ve encountered problems while banking, you can tell your story and not only will you be heard, but you could make a huge difference in banking going forward.
So What Does the Consultation Ask?
The consultation document is asking how the federal government can make the banks follow rules to protect consumers (their bank account holders, credit card users and payments makers) while they make money from banking services.
There are some specific questions the government is asking which you can answer with your stories about banking. In particular, the government is asking about:
Banking can be challenging to understand for anyone. This consultation is particularly interested in information from and about seniors or people with vulnerabilities such as Canadians who have trouble reading. The government is concerned that they may be susceptible to issues such as financial fraud, mis-selling and poor financial outcomes.
What is your bank’s responsibility to you? Currently, Canada does not have a default standard for how financial institutions should treat consumers or a uniform level of responsibility that they owe to consumers. Instead, the standards are specific to the product or service being provided, which may vary.
The consultation is looking for ideas or opinions on what you believe the bank should be responsible to you for, and what that level of responsibility should be.
If a dispute were to come up in your banking, what can you do about it? The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) oversees some consumer aspects of banking, and this consultation wants to know what tools and powers the FCAC might need to effectively watch over the banks, should it be tasked with doing so.
The consultation asks if fully informed consumers will make better financial decisions that will lead to more responsible banking. Right now, the banks are required to be upfront about certain aspects of their services. This consultation wants to know the key information you believe consumers need in order to make informed decisions. They also want to know if you think there are cases where just providing the information isn’t enough and whether there should be other consumer protection in place in addition to information about a financial product or service.
Affordable access to banking for all Canadians is a major goal of this consultation; we want to ensure it becomes a reality. Have you ever encountered trouble in accessing services from your bank? Do you have thoughts on how those situations could be addressed?
A Final Note about Privacy
This is a public consultation, so your identity, or anything you write that identifies you or others you know will be made public, unless you ask the government in your email or letter to try to keep your identity confidential. Please consider this before you send your comments.
Comments are due by February 28, 2014. You can send comments electronically to: code.consult@fin.gc.ca Written comments should be sent to:

Jane Pearse
Director, Financial Institutions Division
Financial Sector Policy Branch
Department of Finance Canada
L’Esplanade Laurier
15th Floor, East Tower
140 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G5
Facsimile: 613-943-1334

If you have further questions about the consultation, please e-mail piac@piac.ca and we will assist you as best we can. Please comment on banking in Canada!