Directive No. 33, Trustee Designation and Advertising—Interpretation regarding exterior signage requirements

Q: Are outdoor signs considered a form of consumer advertising and therefore subject to the Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) usage requirements in the Directive?

A: Yes. For those LITs offering consumer insolvency services, outdoor signs are considered advertising. This is consistent with the intent and the objectives described in the Directive. All LITs were made aware of the signage requirements in December 2015 when the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB) published “Implementation information for Licensed Insolvency Trustees regarding Directive No. 33, Trustee Designation and Advertising:

Consumer advertising (paragraphs 9 and 11 of Directive No. 33)

  • signs
  • websites
  • electronic and printed advertisements, including yellow pages
  • radio and television advertisements
  • banners
  • pop-up messages
  • billboards
  • other promotional materials

Accordingly, outdoor signs, including signage on the exterior of your own brick-and-mortar location, are considered advertising and fall within the definition of advertising in Directive No. 33. The consumer advertising requirements outlined in paragraph 9 of the Directive apply as do the professional standards listed in paragraph 11 of the Directive.

Q: Are there any circumstances where alternative signage approaches can be used to achieve compliance?

A: The OSB has identified two circumstances for which alternative approaches to compliance with the signage requirements can be requested:

1. Multi-service firms that have generic, invariable brand names not specifically associated with insolvency services.

For such firms, an alternative compliance method can be adopted, which requires written OSB authorization:

  1. Exterior signage may maintain an invariable firm name without service qualification (i.e., no LIT reference), no service offering; and
  2. Prominent signage within the firm's premises that complies with the Directive is put in place and visible to consumer insolvency clients at or before the point of entry for consumer insolvency client services.

Typical indicators that would be assessed by the OSB to determine whether alternate signage is permissible:

  • Under the same name, the firm operates a multi-service-line business and can demonstrate that the majority of firm revenue is from non-insolvency services;
  • Within the same firm, non-insolvency service offerings and non-insolvency professionals (such as accountants, or management consultants) are present at multiple locations;
  • The firm brand name is used invariably on exterior signage, without reference to any qualifications or services;
  • There are multiple locations where the same firm name is used at which no consumer insolvency services are offered.

To seek OSB authorization, an LIT should contact their Senior Bankruptcy Analyst.

2. Firms facing restrictions on signage due to lease agreements

Where a firm provides documentation demonstrating that their lease agreement presents a signage restriction to all tenants that is incompatible with Directive No. 33, an alternative compliance method, which requires written OSB authorization, can be adopted:

  1. Exterior signage may maintain an invariable firm name without service qualification (i.e., no LIT reference), no service offering; and
  2. Prominent signage within the firm's premises that complies with the Directive is put in place and visible to consumer insolvency clients at or before the point of entry for consumer insolvency client services.

To seek OSB authorization, an LIT should contact their Senior Bankruptcy Analyst.

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