The new financial institutions ombudservice is now up and running with the establishment of the Centre for the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork (CFSON). The center is the first step in the complaints process, with a free customer assistance and referral service. This service puts consumers in touch with the company representative or industry assistance center to deal with the complaint. Each of the financial services banking and investments, general insurance and life and health insurance has their own ombudservice as well, to resolve issues that have not been settled at the company level. The center is intended to offer consumers one point of entry for complaints and a more consistent system for resolution. “If consumers have concerns or complaints with their providers and are unsure how or where to begin, they can make one call and be put in touch with someone who will guide them through the complaint resolution process,” explains the center’s CEO, Pierre Gravelle. “In essence, we are building on the complaint management services that already exist at the company level – we will always start with a referral back to the appropriate point at the company level, and advise consumers on any next steps, providing guidance and contact information to facilitate resolution.” Consumers will be able to log complaints via telephone, fax, email or at the web site, www.cfson-crcsf.ca. The CFSON will also be producing guidelines for customer service based on the cases it handles, as well as standards for complaint handling. The p&c arm is the General Insurance Ombudservice (GIO). Like the other services, it can produce non-binding recommendations in response to complaints, which may include restitution. Six associations representing financial services, including the Insurance Bureau of Canada, worked together to create an industry-led response to federal calls for a unified ombuservice.