On October 25, 2016, Bill C-29, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2, received first reading. Division 5 of Bill C-29 will, if passed, consolidate the consumer provisions under the Bank Act. This is a result of successive governments’ promises to enact a comprehensive federal “consumer code” for banks, federal credit unions and foreign bank branches. It also reflects a response of the federal government to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decisions in the trilogy of cases known as “Marcotte”.

For further information on the consumer code, please see our:

For further information on Marcotte, please see our September 2014 Blakes Bulletin: Marcotte: Can the Provinces Regulate Banking in Canada?

BILL C-29’S FOUR KEY HIGHLIGHTS ARE:

  1. Purpose and Paramountcy: The new consumer code is stated to be a comprehensive and exclusive regime that is intended to be paramount to any provincial consumer protection and business practices legislation. The new purpose and paramountcy provisions, together with the five new principles discussed below, reflect the federal government’s response to the SCC’s decisions in the Marcotte trilogy of cases.
  2. Five New Principles: The consumer code will be set out in a new Part XII.2 of the Bank Act, titled “Dealings with Customers and Public”. Part XII.2 is to be interpreted in light of five new principles:
    1. Basic banking services should be accessible
    2. Disclosures should enable customers and the public to make informed financial decisions
    3. Customers and the public should be treated fairly
    4. Complaints processes should be impartial, transparent and responsive
    5. An institution should act responsibly, considering its customers and the public as well as the efficiency of its business operations

Banks that are required to file public accountability statements will need to include a description of the measures taken by the bank to be consistent with these five principles in its dealings with its customers and the public.

  1. Consumer Provisions Consolidation: Part XII.2 consolidates the various consumer provisions found within the Bank Act and its regulations, including provisions regarding:
    • Access to Basic Banking Services: retail deposit accounts, access to funds and cashing government cheques or other instruments
    • Business Practices: advertising, tied selling, express consent, negative option products, cooling-off periods for certain ongoing products and services, extension of credit, and prepaid payment products
    • Disclosures: general requirements for required disclosures, disclosures in advertising, and specific disclosures with respect to various types of products, services and processes
    • Complaints: required procedures, annual reporting, and external complaints bodies
    • Accountability: public accountability statements required of banks with equity of C$1-billion or more, notice of branch closure, extension of prescribed provisions to certain affiliates
    • Regulations: regulation making power for the many details that will support the new consumer code
  2. Bank Act-Specific: Bill C-29 is specific to the Bank Act. It does not propose to amend the comparable consumer provisions under the Insurance Companies Act or the Trust and Loan Companies Act.

More time is needed to fully assess the impact of the consolidation and evaluate the extent of the changes.