The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) has published for consultation, new rules regarding complaint processing and dispute resolution in Quebec’s financial sector. The AMF says the purpose of the regulations is to optimize and standardize the way complaints are processed.

The draft regulation defines what constitutes a complaint, and establishes a common set of rules, obligations and practices for the financial sector with respect to the process and timelines to be followed in handling consumer complaints. The regulator’s 60-day comment period to provide feedback on the new rules closes Nov. 8, 2021.

“The draft regulation is intended to harmonize and strengthen the fair processing of complaints in Quebec’s financial sector. It includes requirements drawn from national and international FTC (fair treatment of customers) principles and was drafted taking into account input from various AMF advisory committees and the comments of multiple financial stakeholders,” the AMF writes in the draft regulation, Regulation respecting complaint processing and dispute resolution in the financial sector.

Among others, the new rules would apply to insurers authorized under the Insurance Act, firms, independent representatives and independent partnerships under the Distribution Act and dealers or advisors registered under the Derivatives Act or the Securities Act.

Under the new rules, firms are obligated to develop a complaint processing and dispute resolution policy, to publish a summary of that policy, keep a complaints register and notify the consumer of the complaint registration date within 10 days of such a registration. Firms must also inform the consumer about their right to request to have their complaint record examined by the AMF.

In addition, the regulation sets out monetary administrative penalties that may be imposed in the event of non-compliance. The AMF says all complaints should be processed within 60 days, calculated from the time the complaint is received until the time the final response is sent to the customer. The draft regulation also proposes a simplified process for some complaints which may be resolved more quickly than others.

Finally, the draft regulation outlines the steps firms must take to examine the underlying causes of complaints that are processed, determine if there are causes that are common to the complaints, and to determine if any complaint could have repercussions for any other members of the firm’s clientele.

Institutions replying to complaints, meanwhile, will be prohibited from using the term “ombudsman” or similar qualifier in referring to their complaint process. Under the draft regulation, the AMF also states that no condition could be attached to any offer to resolve a consumer’s complaint that would prevent the complainant from exercising their right to make a request that their record be examined by the AMF. Similarly, no condition may require the complainant to withdraw other complaints they have filed or prevent them from contacting the AMF or a self-regulatory organization.