Dealing With Disputes

If you have concerns about the way your investments or securities have been handled, a company you’ve invested in, or believe a company or individual has broken securities law, it’s important to make a complaint.

Some complaints may be resolved quickly, while more complex complaints may require several steps. Depending on the nature of your complaint, 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.

If you need assistance navigating the complaint process, contact your local securities regulator.  

You may have a complaint if your financial adviser:

  • is not registered to sell the investments being recommended;
  • takes money out of your account, or buys or sells 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 adviser to make trades at their discretion without getting your permission);
  • switches you from one mutual fund to another when there is no legitimate reason; 
  • does not take reasonable care to see that your investment request is executed at the best possible price, given the market conditions at the time; or
  • recommends you buy or sell a security that is unsuitable based on the information gathered from you in the Know Your Client form (KYC).

Making a Complaint

  1. Start with the person or the firm you dealt with. Be clear about what went wrong and when. State the outcome you expect (for example, an apology, getting your account corrected or getting your money back).

  2. If you are not satisfied, ask about the firm’s complaints process and follow the steps suggested. This could involve contacting a manager or the firm’s compliance department. The compliance department is responsible for ensuring the firm and its employees follow securities law.

    The firm is required to respond to you if you make a complaint about a product or service offered by the firm or recommended by a representative of the firm.

  3.  If you are unsatisfied with the response from your firm, you have other options to consider that may be available to you:

Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) is a free, independent service for resolving banking and investment disputes between participating firms and their clients.

If you’re not satisfied with the firm’s response to your complaint, or if the firm has not provided its final response to you within 90 calendar days of the date you complained, you can bring your case to OBSI for an impartial and informal review. 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.

You have up to 180 days after receiving the firm’s response to contact OBSI. OBSI can recommend compensation of up to $350,000 if it determines that you have been treated unfairly, taking into account the criteria of good financial services and business practice, relevant codes of practice or conduct, industry regulation and the law.

If you or the firm decided not to accept OBSI’s recommendation, you can still take legal action.

Learn more about OBSI’s dispute resolution process.

IIROC arbitration program

If you have a dispute with an Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) member firm or its representative and have not been able to resolve it through the firm’s complaints process or OBSI, you can use the IIROC arbitration program. Arbitration is a legal proceeding in which a qualified arbitrator — selected with input from you and your investment firm — issues a final, legally binding decision regarding your complaint.

Arbitration is private, confidential and less formal than a court, and can provide dispute resolution up to $500,000 (plus interest and legal costs). There is a cost to use this system; 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. Investment firms are always represented by a lawyer.

IIROC has designated two independent arbitration organizations for resolution of disputes between clients and firms: ADR Chambers and, for Quebec residents, the Canadian Commercial Arbitration Centre (CCAC).

Learn more about IIROC’s arbitration program and find a list of IIROC regulated firms.

If you live in Québec:

The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) administers the Fonds d’indemnisation des services financiers (“financial services compensation fund”). The fund may compensate victims of fraud, fraudulent tactics (dishonest practices) and embezzlement who conduct business with individuals and companies authorized to operate under An Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services, or in connection with mutual funds or scholarship plans. The maximum compensation payable is $200,000 per claim through funds accumulated in the fund. Consult the AMF’s website for more information.

Legal action

You can take legal action through the courts to recover financial losses from a representative and/or investment firm for alleged misconduct. Each province and territory has a time limit for taking legal action.

Report Fraud or Suspicious Practices

If you think that an individual or firm has broken the rules, contact your local securities regulator.

Regulators can investigate possible violations of securities law and can order reprimands, fines, suspensions and/or expulsions. Regulators may also work with the police if criminal activity, such as fraud, is suspected. However, regulators normally do not recover money for investors and cannot:

  • provide legal advice,
  • undo a transaction,
  • comment on an ongoing investigation, or
  • make a complaint on your behalf.

Helpful Tools

Working with a Financial Adviser (AcrobatPDF): includes information about how to make a complaint