February 24, 2005 — The Centre for the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork released its second annual report today, covering the period January 1 to December 31, 2004.
“Over the past 12 months,” notes the Centre’s Chair, Huguette Labelle, “we have continued to provide free, high-quality information and referral services to help consumers who don’t know where to go to get resolution to their financial-service-related issues and complaints. We have also made good progress in our ongoing efforts to build awareness of our services.”
Overall, between January 1 and December 31, 2004, the Centre�s Consumer Assistance and Referral Service handled 2,555 consumer contacts � 72% (1,832) complaints and 28% (723) enquiries.�In 2004, in most cases, we assisted consumers in resolving issues together with complaint-handling professionals at the company level or with the help of one of the industry association consumer assistance centres,� explains Pierre Gravelle, the Centre�s Chief Executive Officer. �A referral was made to one of the ombudservices in only nine per cent of cases. I view this as a positive sign that the system is working well at the company level.�
Close to 70,000 consumers accessed the Centre’s website in 2004. “The nearly 60% increase in traffic on the site suggests that consumers are using this resource to find the information they need,” says Mr. Gravelle. “And with the addition in 2004 of an online complaint-handling tool, Complaint Courier, the site now provides a stand-alone complaint-handling service for any consumers who prefer to research and resolve issues online.”
The report notes that, over the past year, consumer referrals from government agencies, such as consumer ministries and ombudsman offices, financial market regulators and elected officials, provided close to one-third of all Centre contacts; strengthening relationships with these agencies and other stakeholders, such as community and consumer groups, will continue as a priority in future outreach activities.
“The Centre is a unique, independent, not-for-profit organization whose value to consumers and to the financial-services industry is in providing consumers with a resource they can trust to help them navigate the complaint process with confidence, in order to settle individual complaints fairly, impartially and independently,” concludes Mr. Gravelle.
Through its toll-free Consumer Assistance and Referral Service and website, the Centre for the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork assists financial consumers in resolving individual questions, concerns and 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.
Copies of the full report are available at http://www.cfson-crcsf.ca/en/about/reports/CFSON_AR_Feb05.pdf
Consumer Assistance and Referral Service Toll Free:1-866-538-3766 (FSON) for services in English; 1-866-668-7273 (RCSF) for services in French; 416-777-2043 Toronto area telephone