OmbudsNetwork Adds Online Financial Complaint Tool

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April 27, 2004, Toronto — The Financial Services OmbudsNetwork has partnered with the Canadian Consumer Information Gateway to offer financial consumers an additional complaint channel using an innovative online tool, the Complaint Courier.

The Canadian Consumer Information Gateway is an online initiative, with the site development funded by the Government of Canada. Consumers are able to access reliable consumer information from over 400 sources including federal, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, as well as a growing number of non-governmental partners. The OmbudsNetwork partnership with the Gateway is unique and convenient for consumers as a portion of the Complaint Courier has been integrated right into the OmbudsNetwork’s site.

When we first learned of the initiative back in 2002, we were immediately struck by the complementary nature of the Complaint Courier tool and our own mandate, and made plans to tap into the extensive resource that had been developed,notes Pierre Gravelle, the OmbudsNetworks Chief Executive Officer. Through our Consumer Assistance and Referral Service, like the Consumer Gateway, we play very much a navigator role, helping financial consumers connect with the right people so they can resolve issues faster.

Consumers visiting the OmbudsNetwork site are now able to directly access the Complaint Couriers financial complaint module. Gravelle says that while many consumers prefer to speak with someone in person, especially when they have run into problems, there is a growing segment of the population who chooses to complete transactions online. Canada is a wired nation. You can already perform most financial transactions online everything from shopping for insurance, trading stocks and paying bills to saving for your childrens education. It makes sense to offer online consumers an avenue to voice concerns and complaints electronically.Gravelle notes that the online service also makes the OmbudsNetworks services more accessible providing another convenient option for consumers who have access to the Internet but are not able to make contact by phone during regular business hours.

Our Web site, www.cfson.ca, was originally designed to complement the services offered by our Consumer Assistance Specialists,he explains. By working together with the Consumer Gateway, we are now able to cost-effectively add a level of interactivity, resulting in an additional channel for consumers. We look forward to continuing our joint effort to further refine the module, based on feedback we receive from consumers on this initial offering.

The new module walks consumers through a multi-step process, beginning with complaint assessment, and an overview of rights and responsibilities, to guidance in contacting the financial provider, both by phone and by letter. An online wizard guides consumers through the letter writing process and results in a letter that can be sent by mail or fax to the institution. The letter wizard is a great tool that will ultimately benefit both consumers and complaint handlers,notes Barbara Waters, General Manager of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance OmbudService.

For consumers who have completed all steps at the company level, and are still not satisfied, the tool provides an online form that can be completed and e-mailed seamlessly to one of the three independent ombudservices, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance OmbudService (CLHIO), General Insurance OmbudService (GIO) or the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).

We estimate that half of all inquiries currently come to OBSI by telephone, with the balance coming by e-mail, fax and letter,says Michael Lauber, Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments. This additional channel should make it quicker, and easier, for consumers who choose to communicate with us electronically from the OmbudsNetwork site.

Adds Lea Algar, GIO’s Chairman of the Board, We are pleased with this initiative that broadens access for consumers, as well it complements the online form recently posted on www.gio-scad.org.

Through its free Consumer Assistance and Referral Service and Web site, the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork assists financial consumers in resolving individual questions, concerns or complaints, by putting them in touch with the appropriate point in the OmbudsNetwork of companies, association assistance centres, and independent OmbudServices: the Canadian Life and Health Insurance OmbudService, the General Insurance OmbudService and the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments. The OmbudsNetwork was originally announced in December 2001 by the founding associations representing the large majority of Canadas financial services sector banks, life and health insurers, home, car and business insurers, investment dealers and the mutual funds industry.

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