Filing a Complaint through the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI)

About 4 years ago, I was unable to resolve a complaint with a financial institution. I was advised that I could take my complaint to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI)

In this article, I will explain the process that I followed to file a complaint with OBSI.

First, here is some general information about OBSI and what they do (taken from their web site):

OBSI resolves disputes between participating banking services and investment firms and their customers if they can’t solve them on their own.

We are independent and impartial, and our services are free to consumers. You must first complain to the firm involved, but if you remain unsatisfied you have a right to bring your case to us. As an alternative to the legal system, we work informally and confidentially to find a fair outcome.

If we decide that a firm has acted unfairly, made an error or given you bad advice, and you lost money as a result, we will recommend that the firm restore your financial position to where it should have been. We may also recommend other types of non-financial compensation when appropriate. If we think you have been treated fairly, or the offer you have previously received from the firm is fair, we will let you know. While we cannot order a firm to follow a recommendation, we have an excellent record of firms – and clients – accepting our suggested resolution. We will make public the name of any firm that refuses a recommendation.

The limit for our recommendations is $350,000, but many of our cases are for much smaller amounts. However, if your claim is for an amount higher than $350,000 you can voluntarily reduce it.

1. Contacting the Financial Institution With My Complaint

First, file your complaint with the financial institution and provide them with an opportunity to respond. Start with the branch, and if your complaint is unresolved, move on to the Compliance Department. Provide a written complaint that is specific about the problem and what result you expect. In my situation, the financial institution did not have an Ombudsman of their own – that would have been the alternative. You should request a response within 30 days.

If the institution does not respond within 90 days of your complaint, or if you are not satisfied with their final response, you have the option to file a complaint with OBSI. You are required to file your complaint with OBSI within 180 days after receiving the final firm / institution’s decision. In this instance, I was not satisfied with the financial institution’s response, so I decided to take my complaint to the OBSI.

2. Reviewing the OBSI Website

Before initiating your complaint with OBSI, review the following information on their site:

  • Review the case studies to get an idea of what types of complaints OBSI has handled in the past.
  • Check the list of participants to ensure the institution is listed.
  • Download, print and review the “How We Can Help You” brochure.
  • Review the FAQ.
  • Access the tab on the site “For Consumers”. This will take you to a menu where you can choose a document titled “Getting Help With Your Complaint”.
  • Review the Complaint Form. The completed form can be sent to OBSI by fax, mail, or by using the secure online application. If you choose the online application, you may still have to follow up with a cover letter and other documents by mail or fax.

3. Completing the Complaint Form

I chose to print and mail the complaint form. I sent mine Priority Post (with tracking) and included a cover letter, complaint correspondence between myself and the financial institution, and all pertinent documents/statements.

4. What to Expect from OBSI

OBSI will contact you in writing to acknowledge your complaint. In order for them to complete an initial assessment, they will provide a form for you to sign and return accepting their terms.

After the initial assessment, you will receive further correspondence letting you know whether they are going to investigate your complaint. In my case, they decided to proceed with an investigation and outlined the process and timeline. You will be required to sign additional forms to allow OBSI access to your personal information at the financial institution.

An investigator will be assigned to your case. Additional information and documentation may be requested.

After the investigator has assembled all documentation, you will be contacted with the date and time of a telephone interview.

5. The Telephone Interview

The investigator will conduct the telephone interview and take notes. It is important to schedule the time for the telephone interview when there will be no distractions. Have all your documents in front of you, some key points written down, and a pen and paper to take notes.

The investigator will also schedule and conduct a telephone interview with the financial institution and take notes.

Following the telephone interviews, the investigator may follow up with you to clarify some points.

6. OBSI’s Report

One month after the telephone interview, you will receive a very detailed written report from OBSI with the result of their findings. The same document will be copied to the financial institution.


In this instance OBSI did not recommend compensation in my favour.

However, I was provided with 30 days to review and comment on the report. In addition, I was given the opportunity to provide further information if I believed it might lead OBSI to a different conclusion.

I was unable to provide any new information, so the report became final and the file was closed.

Although I did not receive compensation, OBSI provided a professional, thorough, and timely investigation and offered a valuable service.

If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of the investigation, you can still pursue other avenues of resolution including arbitration, mediation, and court action.

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