The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments’ (OBSI) annual report for 2020 reveals a significant increase in case volumes. 

OBSI received 5,700 inquiries from the public in 2020, a 28% increase over the previous year, while the number of investigations opened also climbed to 791, a 23% jump compared to 2019.

During the year, banking case volumes increased 31% year-over-year and investment cases increased 18%. OBSI noted however, that these annual numbers do not fully reflect the trajectory of case volumes through the year. 

"A significant portion of this increase occurred in the latter half of the fiscal year, following the dramatic market events that took place earlier in the year and the ongoing volatility and pandemic response measures," stated Sarah Bradley, Ombudsman and CEO. "In the later quarters of the year, case volumes reached levels we have not experienced since the 2008 financial crisis." 

Among the banking cases, which rose from 254 cases in 2019 to 332 in 2020, the top concerns raised with OBSI by consumers in 2020, related to credit cards, personal accounts, and mortgage loans. Complaints relating to credit cards were the subject of 37% of all banking cases, while personal savings and chequing account complaints followed at 19%, and mortgage loan complaints represented 11% of all banking cases. 

The leading credit card issue in 2020 was fraud. For personal savings and chequing accounts, service issues were the primary customer concerns, while pre-payment penalties were the top issue with mortgage products. 

Investment complaints 

Investment complaints rose to 459, up from 388 cases in 2019. Mutual funds were the most common product complained about, representing 37% of all investment complaints, a proportional decrease from 47% of cases in 2019. Common shares (equities) complaints increased in 2020 to represent 34% of investment-related complaints, up from 31% in 2019, and remained in the number two spot. Scholarship trust plans represented 9% of complaints, up from 8% in 2019. 

The leading investment issue was the suitability of the investment. Suitability cases made up 19% of investment cases, down proportionally from 22% in 2019. Service issues were the next most frequent complaint at 14% compared to 10% in 2019, while concerns about misrepresented or inaccurate disclosure about a product also increased to 14% of complaints in 2020, up from 9% in 2019.