Toronto, March 15, 2022 – The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) released its 2021 Annual Report.
“The past year marked a number of significant milestones for OBSI,” said Sarah Bradley, Ombudsman and CEO, OBSI. “We successfully managed the highest case volumes we have experienced in our 25-year history. During this landmark year, we also completed our 2017–2021 Strategic Plan and finalized the development of our new 5-year strategic plan. 2021 also marked an important governance shift for OBSI as it was the last full year in the term for our Chair of the Board of Directors, and the board undertook the recruitment process for our new chair.
“I would like to thank our outgoing Chair, Jim Emmerton, for his service to the organization, not only as chair but as a longstanding member of the board and past member of the Consumer and Investor Advisory Council. He has been a strong leader and OBSI supporter throughout his tenure and we wish him well,” said Ms. Bradley.
2021 was OBSI’s busiest year on record, surpassing previous highs reached following the global financial crisis in 2009-2010. During the year, OBSI assisted 7,593 consumers who contacted the organization with inquiries, a 33% increase over 2020. In 2021, OBSI also opened 1,082 new cases, 37% more than in 2020.
The Annual Report also features:
- a 25-year timeline of key organizational milestones;
- highlights of OBSI’s strategic plan for 2022–2026 launched earlier this year; and
- increased disclosure of overall inquiry and case outcomes.
Issues affecting multiple consumers
In 2021, OBSI reported six case-specific systemic issues to regulators. Four were related to banking cases and two were related to investment cases. When OBSI investigations or data identify issues that may affect those who have not complained to OBSI (known as “systemic issues”), the organization is required to report to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada for banking issues or the Canadian Securities Administrators for investment issues.
In addition to these specific, case-related reports, OBSI provided ongoing detailed trend data on case issues, products and outcomes to regulators to facilitate discussions with them on the trends it is observing. The organization also engaged in an open dialogue with regulators and industry participants on emerging issues identified in its case-handling process. These channels are an important forum for information exchange between OBSI and financial sector policy makers. In addition, broader systemic issues that it observed frequently inform public communications such as consumer and firm bulletins, approaches and case studies.
Banking cases increased 55% year-over-year, from 332 cases in 2020 to 514 in 2021. The top concerns raised with OBSI by consumers in 2021 related to credit cards, personal transaction accounts, and mortgage loans. Complaints related to credit cards were the subject of 35% of all banking cases, while personal savings and chequing account complaints followed at 15%, and mortgage loan complaints represented 14% of all banking cases.
Fraud was the overall leading issue for banking complaints in 2021, making up a large portion of the complaints involving credit cards, personal accounts, e-transfers and wire transfers, and 22% of OBSI’s total banking case volume. Concerns about service issues made up 18% of complaints overall. Among consumers with credit card concerns, chargeback was the most common issue raised. For personal savings and chequing accounts, issues related to a bank’s decision to end the consumer relationship were the most common area of consumer concern. Pre-payment penalties were the top issue raised in relation to mortgage-related complaints.
Investment complaints increased by 24% in 2021 to 568, up from 459 cases in 2020. Common shares (equities) were the most complained-about investment product, representing 43% of all investment complaints, up from 34% of cases in 2020. Mutual fund complaints decreased in 2021, representing 27% of investment-related complaints, down from 37% in 2020. Scholarship trust plans represented 14% of complaints, up from 9% in 2020.
The overall leading investment issues in 2021 related to technical and non-technical service problems, representing 16% of investment cases, up from 14% in 2020. Concerns about investment suitability made up 14% of complaints, down from 19% in 2020, while misrepresented or inaccurate disclosure about a product represented 14% of overall cases, a similar proportion as last year.
Canada’s Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) is a national, independent and not-for-profit organization that helps resolve and reduce disputes between consumers and financial services firms in both official languages. OBSI is responsive to consumer inquiries, conducts fair and accessible investigations of unresolved disputes, and shares its knowledge and expertise with the stakeholders and the public. If a consumer has a complaint against an OBSI participating bank or investment firm that they are not able to resolve with the bank or firm, OBSI will investigate at no cost to the consumer. Where a complaint has merit, OBSI may recommend compensation up to a maximum of $350,000.
For more information or to request an interview with Ms. Bradley, please contact:
Mark Wright, Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations