The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) recently ruled that a bank website is not a bank branch for purposes of the Insurance Business (Banks and Bank Holding Companies) Regulations. This means that banks can promote insurance products in Canada on their websites, subject to certain conditions.

The regulations prohibit banks from promoting in Canada certain kinds of insurance policies and insurance companies, agents and brokers at bank branches.

OSFI reached the conclusion a bank website is not a bank branch for purposes of the regulations, after considering the definition of a "branch" in the Bank Act, the use of the terms "branch" and "websites" throughout the Bank Act, and the Interpretation Act. It noted that:

  • the definition of "branch" in the Bank Act refers to physical premises;
  • the Bank Act specifically distinguishes the terms "branches" and "websites"; and
  • by virtue of the Interpretation Act, the terms used in the regulations have the same respective meanings as those in the Bank Act.

Therefore, the prohibitions on promoting insurance at bank branches do not apply to bank websites.