How to make a complaint to get your money back
Are you unhappy because of financial service or advice you received, and you believe you may have lost money? You may wish to make a complaint and attempt to recover your losses. Find out how.
Do you believe you may have lost money due to poor financial advice? You may wish to make a complaint and attempt to recover your losses. Find out how.
On this page we answer
- How do you make a complaint?
- What to do if you are not satisfied with your firm’s response
- What is the CIRO arbitration program?
- What legal action could you take?
- How do you make a complaint to report wrongdoing?
How do you make a complaint?
The complaint process may involve several steps in order to get a result that you’re satisfied with.
Your first step is to contact the firm about your complaint. Start with the person or firm that you dealt with and put your complaint in writing as soon as possible.
Be clear about what went wrong, when the issue occurred and the outcome you expect in order to resolve the issue. For example, an apology, getting your account corrected or getting your money back.
Once you have made your complaint, your firm has up to 90 calendar days to respond in writing. It also must send you a written acknowledgement of your complaint as soon as possible after you make it.
Both the acknowledgement and response must provide the following information:
- How the firm is required to handle the complaint under securities law.
- The steps you must take in order to escalate your complaint to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments(OBSIOBSI See Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments.+ read full definition). OBSI is independent dispute resolution service recognized by the Canadian securities regulators.
- OBSI’s contact information.
The firm’s response should include either the firm’s offer to resolve the complaint or a denial of the complaint. After receiving the firm’s response, you can choose to accept it or, if you are not satisfied with it, you can take steps to escalate your complaint to OBSI.
Keep in mind that there are limits on how much time you have to make your complaint to OBSI. These limits are described below.
4 TIPS WHEN MAKING A COMPLAINT
- Gather your facts –Think about the problem and the result that you want. Write down the main points in the order that they occurred.
- Put your complaint in writing –If you have everything in writing, you can easily keep a record of events. Without this record, the complaints process may be more difficult.
- Document everything –Make sure you document all the steps you take to get your complaint resolved, including telephone conversations, emails and faxes with dates and names of employees that you communicated with.
- Act quickly –It’s important to act quickly and to respond promptly to any requests for more information, especially if you want your money back.
What to do if you are not satisfied with your firm’s response
If your firm provides a response to your complaint that you are not satisfied with, or fails to provide its response to you within 90 calendar days, you may take your complaint to Ombudsman for Banking Services and InvestmentsOmbudsman for Banking Services and Investments A national, independent and not-for-profit organization that helps resolve disputes between consumers and financial services firms when they can’t come to a resolution on their own.+ read full definition (OBSI).
OBSI is a free, independent service for resolving banking and investment disputes between participating firms and their clients. All registered firms in Ontario are required to make OBSI’s dispute resolution services available to their clients.
If the complaint is within OBSI’s mandate, it will investigate your complaint in a timely manner without needing a lawyer.
OBSI can investigate your complaint if:
- your firm has not provided you with its final response after 90 calendar days; or
- your firm gave you its final response, but you are still unsatisfied with the outcome. Once you receive the final response, you have 180 calendar days to bring your complaint to OBSI.
For a complaint to be within OBSI’s mandate, you must have raised your complaint with your firm within six years of when you first became aware of the issue.
If OBSI investigates your complaint and determines that it would be fair for the firm to compensate you for any financial losses you sustained, OBSI will issue a written recommendation to the firm. It summarizes the reasons for its recommendation, including the amount that OBSI recommends the firm provide you in compensation.
OBSI can make recommendations for compensation up to $350,000. The OBSI recommendation is not binding. But OBSI will try to settle the dispute between you and the firm through a facilitated settlement.
If either you or the firm decides to not accept OBSI’s recommendation, you can still take legal action. To the extent permitted by law, the time limit that you have to start legal action is suspended while OBSI reviews your complaint.
Learn more about OBSI’s dispute resolution process.
Some firms have an internal ombudsman to review complaints if you are not satisfied with the response you received from the firm. However, an internal ombudsman is employed by the firm or is an affiliate of the firm and, unlike OBSI, is not an independent dispute resolution service.
If you are not satisfied with the firm’s response you may use the services of an internal ombudsman, but you are not required to do so before you file a complaint with OBSI. You may submit your complaint to OBSI immediately after receiving the firm’s response or if the firm has not provided a response after 90 calendar days.
What is the Arbitration Program?
If your complaint involves a firm that was previously a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and is now a member of CIRO, you also have the option to use its ArbitrationArbitration An alternative of resolving disputes outside of the civil courts. It puts your case in front of an impartial arbitrator. You must accept the decision as final. Available to all clients of firms that belong to the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).+ read full definition Program.
Arbitration is a legal proceeding in which a qualified arbitrator — selected with input from you and the firm — issues a final, legally binding decision regarding your complaint.
Arbitration is less formal than a court and can lead to compensation of up to $500,000 (plus interest and legal costs).
There is a cost to use the Arbitration Program. When you file your case, you can decide whether the arbitrator should have the power to award legal costs to the successful party.
You are not required to hire a lawyer, but arbitration is a legal proceeding and decisions are final. Firms are always represented by a lawyer.
What legal action could you take?
You can take legal action to recover financial losses from your firm but, if you commence legal action, and your matter is before the court, OBSI will no longer be able to investigate your complaint.
In Ontario, you generally have a two-year time frame during which you can initiate legal action before you lose your right to a claim. Though the time limit is suspended if your complaint is being reviewed by OBSI. You may wish to obtain legal advice on your rights and options at any time during the complaints process.
To get help finding legal assistance in Ontario, contact the Law Society of Upper Canada’s referral service. You can also seek help from the Investor Protection Clinic, Osgoode Hall Law School that provides free legal advice to people who believe their investments were mishandled and who cannot afford a lawyer.
How do you make a complaint to reporting wrongdoing?
If you believe that an individual or firm has broken securities laws, acted fraudulently or otherwise acted improperly, always report it to the Ontario Securities CommissionOntario Securities Commission An independent Crown corporation that is responsible for regulating the capital markets in Ontario. Its mandate is to provide protection to investors from unfair, improper or fraudulent practices, to foster fair and efficient capital markets and confidence in capital markets, and to contribute to the stability of the financial system and the reduction of systemic…+ read full definition (OSCOSC See Ontario Securities Commission.+ read full definition). Wrongdoing may include:
- Unregistered people or businesses offering you investment
- A person or business taking money out of your account or buying or selling securities with your money without first getting your permission. (This does not apply if you have set up a discretionary account, which allows your financial advisor to make trades at their discretion.)
- A person or business who offers you confidential information or “insiderInsider Every director/senior officer of a reporting issuer; every director/senior officer of a company that is an insider or subsidiary of a reporting issuer; any person/company who owns or controls more than 10% of the voting securities of a reporting issuer.+ read full definition” tips.
Reporting wrongdoing enables regulators to take action and may prevent it from happening to anyone else. Depending on the nature of the issue, you may be referred to a regulator which oversees a specific part of the securities market (such as mutual funds), an ombudsman or to law enforcement.
When you report an issue, you may be asked to provide additional information or be interviewed by regulators about the issue. Consider keeping a file of relevant document such as application forms, agreements, account statements, letters, faxes, emails and notes of conversations.
Regulators may work with law enforcement if criminal activity, such as fraud, is suspected. However, regulators normally do not recover money for investors and cannot:
- Provide legal advice.
- Undo a transactionTransaction The process where one person or party buys goods or services from another for money. Examples include taking money out of an account, buying something with a credit card or taking out a loan.+ read full definition.
- Comment on an ongoing investigation.
- Make a complaint on your behalf.
If you suspect a person or business has broken securities laws, acted fraudulently or otherwise improperly, report it to the Ontario Securities Commission. The Ontario Securities Commission can investigate potential wrongdoing and can impose sanctions on those that break the rules.
If you think you lost money due to poor financial advice you may wish to make a complaint and attempt to recover your losses. To do so remember:
- The process may involve several steps in order to get a result that you’re satisfied with.
- Your first step is to contact the firm about your complaint.
- Be clear about what went wrong, when the issue occurred and the outcome you expect in order to resolve the issue.
- If your firm provides a response to your complaint that you are not satisfied with or fails to provide its response to you within 90 calendar days, you may take your complaint to Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).