Archived—Project Summaries 2007-2008 - Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) (Manitoba) Inc.

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21 – 222 Osborne Street South
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3L 1Z3
Tel: 204-452-2576
Fax: 204-284-1876

1. Readability of Financial Services Information for Consumers


Consumers' ability to make good decisions in the financial services marketplace is largely dependent on their access to complete information about the products and services they are purchasing. Much of the information consumers receive about financial products and services is in print. According to Industry Canada's Consumer Trends Report, 4 out of 10 Canadians between the ages of 16 and 65 are in the lowest two literacy levels for both prose and quantitative literacy (3 being considered the minimum level for citizens to function competently in society). These facts raise definite concerns about the ability of consumers to read and comprehend printed information provided to inform about financial services and products.

CAC–Manitoba will research this issue by:

  • Collecting samples of educational and promotional materials produced by the financial services industry in Canada for use by consumers, using standardized literacy tools to determine and compare readability (materials used by organizations providing financial education and information may be included).
  • Researching readability benchmarks currently being used by the financial services industry and comparing them to benchmarks suggested by literacy specialists.
  • Testing a sampling of materials with actual consumers having various levels of education, and/or experience with financial services, including consumers for whom English is a second language.

CAC–Manitoba will assess the readability of the materials using two methods:

  1. The Fry readability test, which measures both average sentence length and average number of syllables.
  2. Actual consumer experience with a sample of the targeted materials in the focus group setting.

According to CAC–Manitoba, the Fry test is a recognized benchmark test for readability of a variety of publications that are commonly used by consumers, such as newsletters, magazines, educational materials, information manuals, etc. This allows CAC–Manitoba to research the consumers' potential to access the information using an objective, verifiable research tool.

CAC–Manitoba also plans to test these materials with consumers in a focus group setting. This will afford CAC–Manitoba a concrete, consumer focussed tool that can bring forward more diverse and in-depth information and measures actual user experience. Also, it ensures that the consumer perspective will be the focus for our research.

Using results of the above research, CAC–Manitoba will inform the various financial institutions and organizations about the readability of their own materials, and how they compare to other materials currently being used in Canada. Also, CAC–Manitoba will suggest some strategies to improve the readability of some of these documents, making them more accessible to a larger number of Canadian consumers.