FCAC marks World Consumer Rights Day

March 15 is World Consumer Rights Day and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada - FCAC encourages Canadian consumers to protect themselves by fully understanding their rights and responsibilities regarding financial products and services.

FCAC Commissioner Ursula Menke points out that "if you are aware of your rights and responsibilities when dealing with the financial sector, you will not only avoid having to deal with unpleasant conflicts; you will also ensure you obtain the information you need to make informed financial decisions, and you will sleep more easily knowing that you are confident in your dealings with financial institutions."

You have the right to open a bank account

You have the right to open a personal bank account even if you do not have a job, do not have any money to put in the account right away or have been bankrupt. In some cases, however, the bank can refuse to let someone open an account: for example, if it has good reason to believe that the person will use the account to break the law or commit fraud.

You have the right to cash Government of Canada cheques

Under Canadian law, you have the right to cash cheques from the Government of Canada for up to $1,500 at any federally regulated financial institution, free of charge. "You can cash these cheques even if you are not a client of that institution," says Ms. Menke, as long as you can show two valid, original pieces of identification.

You have the right to know the terms and conditions of your loan

There are many types of loans available, from mortgages and lines of credit to personal loans and credit cards. When you apply for any loan from a federally regulated financial institution, it must provide you with certain important information, shown in an information box at the beginning of the credit contract. Under the Cost of Borrowing Regulations, this information must include the credit limit or the loan amount, the annual interest rate and the minimum payment for each payment period, among other key terms.

In a video success story, Monica Daga, settlement worker, helps new immigrants understand the financial system. For more information or to get FCAC publications or use our interactive tools, click here.

About FCAC

With educational materials and interactive tools, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada - FCAC provides objective information about financial products and services to help Canadians increase their financial knowledge and confidence in managing their personal finances. FCAC informs consumers about their rights and responsibilities when dealing with banks and federally regulated trust, loan and insurance companies. FCAC also makes sure that federally regulated financial institutions, payment card network operators and external complaints bodies comply with legislation and industry commitments intended to protect consumers.

(Published by National Post - March 14, 2011)

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