Life and health insurance industry establishes independent Ombudsman service

MONTREAL, Aug. 14, 2002 – The life and health insurance industry has established a new, independent OmbudService to provide assistance to consumers with concerns or complaints. The OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) has been incorporated as an independent entity, separate from the industry association, and is headed by a distinguished Board of Directors with a majority of independent Directors.

The Chairman of the Board is the Hon. Gilles Loiselle, former federal Minister of Finance, who has previously served both the federal and Quebec governments in a number of senior capacities. Other members of the Board include:

  • Lea Algar, former Ontario Insurance Ombudsman
  • Bernard Bonin, former Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada
  • Sally Hall, former President of the Consumers’ Association of Canada
  • Yves Rabeau, Professor of Economics, Universit� du Qu�bec � Montr�al (UQAM)
  • Reginald Richard, former Superintendent of Insurance for New Brunswick
  • Raymond Garneau, Chairman of the Board, Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services, and
  • Christopher McElvaine, Corporate Director, The Empire Life Insurance Company.

The latter two are specifically designated as the industry representatives on the Board.

“I am very pleased to be involved with my fellow Board members in the oversight of this new organization, which we are confident will serve consumers extremely well”, said Mr. Loiselle.

The CLHIO is a part of the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork (FSON) announced last December by the banks, life and health insurers, property and casualty insurers, investment dealers and the mutual fund industry.

There are three key parts to the FSON:

  • individual financial services providers and their own consumer complaints management activities, which are the first level of recourse for consumers with concerns or complaints.
  • independent, industry-level ombudservices sponsored by each of the participating industry groups to deal with concerns that have not been resolved through individual company dispute resolution systems.
  • the Centre for the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork which will provide a consumer assistance referral service with a 1-800 number and website and also maintain standards, handle awareness-raising and provide reports.

“We are delighted to welcome this new member of the FSON; the life and health insurance industry’s OmbudService is a vitally important part of the Network”, said Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of the Centre for the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork.

Since 1973, the life and health insurance industry has been handling complaints as one dimension of its Consumer Assistance Centre (CAC) which annually handles some 65,000 calls from consumers seeking information and assistance. Since 1998, the complaint resolution activity has included informal conciliation through an OmbudService which operated as one division of the CAC.

With the creation of the CLHIO, the OmbudService will be provided by a separate, independent organization. It will continue to undertake informal conciliation with a view to fostering agreement between the consumer and the company. When that does not prove feasible, a report with recommendations as to a fair and appropriate course of action, including the possibility of restitution, will be issued.

As in the past, the new OmbudService will serve consumers who remain dissatisfied after having dealt with their insurance company, and possibly the complaint management services of the CAC as well.

Over the rest of the summer, efforts will focus on finalizing the operational aspects of the new CLHIO, including working with the other members of the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork to ensure effective referral procedures among the component parts. The official launch of the CLHIO will coincide with that of the FSON and include announcement of the CLHIO’s 1-800 phone numbers and website.