The federal government said in its fall economic statement that it would introduce legislation in its 2024 budget to establish an open banking framework.
Open banking, or what the government calls “consumer-driven banking,” would make it easier for Canadians and small businesses to safely share their financial data between services, including options like budgeting apps. For example, a customer could pool all of their various bank accounts into a single interface, making it easier to add and manage no-cost accounts or other products.
Many in the financial tech community have been pushing for the adoption of open banking to make it easier for consumers to switch bank accounts and try new services. British consumers, for instance, can tell their banks to switch their account over to a competitor, and all incoming and outgoing payment information like automatic bill payment is transferred as well.
The federal Liberals had promised in its 2021 election campaign to have open banking in place no later than early 2023.
A single option for banking complaints
Consumer advocates have been pushing for years to bring back a single banking ombudsperson to resolve complaints since the current two options allows banks to choose which service they prefer, rather than what’s necessarily best for clients.
The federal government said in its 2022 budget that it would bring in legislation to bring in a single complaints body. In October of this year, the government announced that the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments, one of the two existing organizations, would have jurisdiction over all banking complaints as of Nov. 1, 2024. The other, ADR Chambers, will continue operating its other conflict resolution services.
Consumer advocates such as Democracy Watch have, however, criticized the government for not following through on its promise to give the ombuds power to impose binding arbitration on its decisions.
Payments Canada, the non-profit group that owns and operates payments infrastructure in the country, has been working for a while to put in place near instant payment clearing. The improvement would mean things like a credit card payment would go through immediately, rather than the sometimes days it can take during weekends and holidays, while also adding more data and transparency to payments.
Payments Canada in 2018 said the system would be in place in 2019, but it’s still not live. The group last said it would launch in mid-2023 before announcing another indefinite delay, citing “delivery delays.” It has said it will provide an update on the planned rollout in the first quarter of 2024.
In the 2023 budget, the government put in lower caps on the interest rates lenders could charge. The maximum rate went from the equivalent of a 47% annual percentage rate (APR) to 35% APR and adjusted the Criminal Code’s payday lending exemption to require payday lenders to charge no more than $14 per $100 borrowed.
The government also launched consultations in October, looking for input on what additional protections are needed against predatory lending. It also wants to know what kind of products are needed, especially on low-cost, small-value credit to fill the need payday lenders currently serve. TD Bank and Canada Post did launch an alternative lending service in late 2022, only to halt it shortly after citing processing issues, with the program now on indefinite pause.
It’s not clear what programs or changes the government might roll out in 2024.
Not in sight: price reviews
Democracy Watch highlighted recently that along with only partially following through on some 2021 election promises, the federal government has made no progress on its commitment to “enhance the powers of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to review the prices charged by banks and impose changes if they are excessive.”
The government has more recently said it was pushing on more specific fees such as non-sufficient fund charges, along with increasing access to low-cost and no-cost bank account options. Currently, groups including youth, students, seniors on guaranteed income supplement and registered disability savings plan beneficiaries qualify for low-cost accounts, but the government says it is working to expand eligibility.