Archived—Project Summaries 2008-2009 - Consumer Interest Alliance Inc.

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1. Assessing Access to Basic Banking Services for Very Low Income Consumers

$39,200

"A bank account provides access to a wide variety of banking services including direct deposit, pre-authorized bill payments, automated banking machines (ABMs) and direct debit purchases."
(Canadian Bankers Association website, dated August 2006).

While the Access to Basic Banking Services Regulations (SOR/2003-184) under the Bank Act have been in place since 2003, it is not clear whether banks properly apply these rules to make access straightforward for consumers on very low incomes, without regular employment, or who are homeless. As the Regulation has been in place for five years, this assessment would provide a timely review of the ways in which banks are providing such services to the neediest Canadian consumers.

As the number of retail bank building decrease and many consumers use machines and computers to complete many banking transactions, the neediest consumers appear to be faced with greater difficulties in dealing with their finances and bank-based transactions. The proliferation of cheque cashing outlets supports the premise that banks are not providing the services that many Canadian consumers require.

Research Questions:

  • How can data be collected to reflect the experiences of consumers who do not have regular access to electronic communications or telephones?
  • Are the homeless and other very low income Canadians able to access banking services?
  • Are the Access to Basic Banking Services Regulations of the Bank Act serving the needs of the most vulnerable consumers?

The results of the questionnaires will be analyzed to determine the level of implementation of the banking access regulations to those consumers with the greatest financial access problems.

The survey results will be reviewed with the consumer affairs offices of three or more chartered banks and discussed with a sample of associations that advocate for homeless and poverty issues. Where appropriate, variations in practices of relevant provincial regulations will be noted. Bank and Canadian Payments Association codes of practice (i.e., non-mandated) will also be compared to existing practices identified for these issues.

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2. Proposal for Establishing Co-ordinated Consumer Representation on Federal and Provincial Committees Responsible for National Codes for Buildings

$81,200

The present system of National Codes for Buildings, Fire, Plumbing, Housing and Farm Buildings is well developed. However, the system has limited opportunities for ongoing involvement by those who are not members of the committees that develop and approve the resources used in the codes. In particular, individual consumers and consumer membership associations lack the resources (and often the expertise) to review drafts, make submissions at meetings and ensure that the consumer point of view is heard and acted upon where the position has merit.

The intent of the project is to establish the criteria for an on-going presence of well-qualified volunteer representatives of consumer organizations to be members of the key provincial and territorial committees that have the legislated responsibility to adopt or modify the National Codes developed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes and the Canadian Standards Association. The key objective for the project is to justify and establish well qualified volunteers on federal, provincial and territorial committees of the National Code system.

The outcome of the project will be effective longer-term representation of consumer interest in the development and adoption of the National Codes. The volunteers will review and provide representation of consumer interests and clear guidance on the characteristics and features of housing. This information will help Canadians have effective representation in the provincial, territorial and federal building code development and regulatory processes.