Canadians had more complaints than usual about their banks last year, ombudsman says


Canadians had 28 per cent more gripes about their banks last year than they did in 2016, according to a new report from the ombudsman overseeing the industry, with bogus credit card charges a particular thorn in the side of many customers.

According to the annual report of the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), the office opened 370 investigations into banking-related complaints from Canadian consumers last year. That’s a little more than one per day. The previous year, OBSI opened 290 new files about banks.

More than half of those cases came from people in Ontario.

OBSI only gets involved once cases have escalated to the level where customers and their banks haven’t been able to sort out their differences on their own or through other dispute resolution channels.

OBSI doesn’t even govern the entire industry in Canada, as the two biggest banks in the country — Royal Bank and Toronto-Dominion Bank — opt to handle their disputes through another similar agency, third-party firm ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office (ADRBO). 

An earlier report from ADRBO showed 275 complaints (157 about TD and 118 about Royal Bank) were handled last year, an increase of 22 per cent. 

No bank chose to ignore recommendation

Of all the cases involving complaints about banks, OBSI said it ended up recommending some sort of compensation for complainants in 23 per cent of all cases (nearly 1 in 4) it closed during the year.

In total, OBSI recommended $165,023 in total be given to bank plaintiffs last year, with an average finding of $2,089 and the largest single recommendation coming in at $17,653.

Technically, OBSI’s recommendations are non-binding, but if banks choose to ignore an OBSI recommendation, the office has the right to “name and shame” the bank. No banks chose to ignore an OBSI recommendation this year.

OBSI doesn’t cover all Canadian banks, but its annual report offers a glimpse into the type of complaints that many Canadians have had with their lenders. Complaints about credit cards in particular surged this year, almost doubling to 112 instances in 2017 — nearly a third of all the cases OBSI handled from banks.

Chargebacks — when banks reimburse customers for charges from third parties that have incorrectly appeared on their  bill — were the leading source of complaints about credit cards. 

The second most common type of complaint involved mortgages, and among those, beefs about penalties and being given incorrect information about loans were the most common complaint.

All in all, OBSI logged the following complaints about major Canadian banks this year:

  • 131 about Scotiabank, in which the ombudsman sided with the customer in 23 of those cases.
  • 77 about CIBC, 13 of them in favour of the complainant.
  • 52 about Bank of Montreal, with 13 of them in favour of the customer.


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