Your investment advisor works for you. Don’t be shy about asking questions to better understand or clarify any concerns you may have. It’s your money after all.

Sometimes, your concerns may lead you to make a complaint against your investment advisor. For example, you may believe your investment advisor has given you advice that is not suitable for you and your investment objectives. Or, you may have a complaint that your investment advisor is making too many trades, which increases their fees and lowers your returns.

Here are some steps you may take to address your complaint.

For more comprehensive information, read or download Getting Your Money Back: An Investor’s Guide to Navigating Canada’s Complaint System.

Step 1: Talk to your advisor

You may have questions about your investments or the advice you are receiving from your investment advisor. You have every right to raise your questions and concerns with your advisor. Here are some tips on doing this:

  • Contact your advisor directly to request a meeting.
  • Write down your concerns prior to meeting with your advisor.
  • Share your concerns during the meeting (either verbally or in writing).
  • Write down your advisor’s responses, including any action to be taken.

For many investors, an open discussion with their advisor may resolve their concerns.

Step 2: Make a formal complaint to your investment firm

If you are not satisfied with your advisor’s response, you may make a formal, written complaint to your investment firm.

Do not delay. You should complain directly to the firm’s management or compliance department. A letter or email setting out the key details of your complaint is often the best way to make your complaint. Include details about what went wrong and when, as well as the outcome you are seeking (for example, having your account corrected or receiving financial compensation for unsuitable advice).

The firm has to acknowledge your complaint, usually between 5 to ten days. They also have to provide you with their final response within 90 days, including a summary of your complaint, the results of their investigation, an explanation of their final decision, and options available to you if you are not satisfied with their response.

Step 3: Escalate your complaint to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from your investment firm, you have the right to bring your complaint to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI). OBSI offers free services to help you and will work with you and your investment firm to try to resolve your complaint.

You have the right to bring your complaint to OBSI when:

  • Your investment firm has had 90 calendar days to deal with your complaint but has not provided you with their final response; or
  • If you do receive a response within the 90-day period, but remain unsatisfied, you have up to 180 calendar days from when the firm gave you its final response to bring your complaint to OBSI.

Bottom line: don’t let your firm dissuade you or suggest you need to deal with someone at the firm with “ombudsman” in their business title. The law is clear: your investment firm has 90 calendar days to try to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction before you can go to OBSI. If you receive an unsatisfactory response, you have the right to go to OBSI within 180 calendar days after the investment firm has responded to you.

Use this simple search tool to find out if your firm is a member of OBSI. You may also call them at 1-888-451-4519, or send them an email at OBSI provides speech and reading support tools for free.

For residents of Quebec, in addition to OBSI, you may also bring your complaint directly to the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), who may try to help you resolve it.

Step 4: Take other action

If you continue to have unresolved concerns about your investments or your investment advisor, you may also wish to:

  • Approach your provincial or territorial securities regulator for help. A few provinces also maintain funds that might help provide you with some financial compensation depending on the facts of your situation. Be sure to ask the securities regulator in your province or territory whether such a fund exists where you live and whether it might apply in your case.
  • If your complaint involves an investment dealer, a mutual fund dealer or one of their representatives, contact the New SRO.
  • Consult a lawyer about your options for commencing a lawsuit or taking other legal action.

Important Tips:

  • Document all the steps you take to resolve your complaint.
  • Write down who you spoke to, the date and what was discussed.
  • Keep a file of relevant documents like application forms, agreements and account statements.
  • Keep copies of letters, texts, emails and notes of conversations.
  • File your complaint right away and respond quickly to requests for more information.

Remember: Take action as soon as you have a concern. Delays could limit your options and legal rights later on.