Canadian Underwriter

Fin institutions launch national consumer ombudsman service

December 20, 2001   by Canadian Underwriter

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All of the major sector players operating in the Canadian financial services environment from banks, life insurers, property and casualty insurers, health insurers, investment dealers and mutual funds have co-founded a new national consumer ombudsman office. The National Financial Services OmbudService (NFSO), slated to be officially opened by the beginning of July next year, will handle consumer complaints across the financial services listed above.
The launch of the NFSO comes after the recent legislative passing of the new federal financial services regulations under Bill C-8. The initial discussion document issued by the Finance Minister’s office with regard to the development of Bill C-8 had called for the creation of a national financial services ombudsman under the mantle of the federal government, which therefore would have had binding, decision-making powers. This aspect did not make the final legislation. The NFSO has been endorsed by the Joint Forum of Financial Market Regulators (JFFMR), the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR), the Canadian Association of Pension Supervisory Authorities (CAPSA), and the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA).
Consumers will be able to access the NFSO through a single, countrywide, toll-free phone number as well as through a website. The NFSO will, however, refer complaints which have not been first dealt with at the company level back to the appropriate party in question. The NFSO will only handle complaints where other dispute resolution options have not produced results. It is not expected that decisions made by the NFSO will be binding on financial institutions.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) president George Anderson says the bureau will welcome "expressions of interest from other players in the financial services sector" as the bureau and other industry bodies work toward the NFSO’s launch date. "We look forward to providing further details on the operation of the NFSO at the time of its official launch."

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