Have a complaint against your bank? You may face an uphill battle, watchdog report suggests

Canadians with complaints against their bank have their work cut out for them if their case happens to be a complicated one.

That’s the main finding of a lengthy government review of the way Canada’s big six banks — RBC, TD, BMO, CIBC, ScotiaBank and National Bank — handle their customer complaints.

More than five million Canadians bring at least one complaint against their bank every year, estimates the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the federal financial consumer watchdog. Of those, about 75 per cent are resolved at the first point of contact between customers and their financial institution, according to the FCAC.

But if your bank issue happens to be among the 25 per cent of complaints that must be escalated — good luck.

At the next level up, you may encounter bank employees who, while charged with handling your escalated complaint, are also required to look for opportunities to sell you the bank’s products and services, according to the report.

Banks don’t make it easy for consumers to advance their complaints, leaving it up to those customers to navigate “a complex system that is slow and cumbersome,” the FCAC said. As a result, a significant portion of consumers simply give up, the agency said.

But even if you manage to reach some kind of resolution, the type of treatment you can expect may depend more on how much you matter to the bank as a customer than the degree of harm that any bank error may have done to you, the report stated.

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