Consumers Need to Be More Savvy Says Ontario Financial Services Regulator

NORTH YORK (May 30, 2000) - "Consumers owe it to themselves to know more about the financial services marketplace if they want to safeguard their financial well-being," says Dina Palozzi, Chief Executive Officer and Superintendent of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). "They should understand their pension benefits, compare insurance products before investing in them, and be sure that the financial intermediaries they contract with are licensed to do business in Ontario.

Ms. Palozzi made her remarks as FSCO unveiled a set of publications designed to increase consumers' awareness of their rights and responsibilities in Ontario's financial services marketplace. FSCO safeguards consumers through a variety of mechanisms including enforcement of marketplace rules, but Ms. Palozzi says that consumers can best protect themselves and ensure their financial security by knowing what questions to ask and by understanding what they are buying.

FSCO is committed to working with industry associations and consumer groups to complement the information already available to Ontario consumers by financial services providers. FSCO provides neutral third-party information and many services of which consumers may not be aware.

FSCO's publications cover a broad spectrum - from buying car and travel health insurance and understanding how Ontario-registered pension plans are administered, to knowing when and how individuals may access locked-in retirement savings accounts. They also explain FSCO services, such as mediation and arbitration for disputes between individuals and their insurance companies over Statutory Accident Benefits for injuries received in car accidents, and the role that Ontario's Insurance Ombudsman plays in resolving complaints about insurance companies.

"Financial services products are an important investment for many consumers," says Ms Palozzi. "Today's marketplace offers a wide array of products, and while this is a good thing, it can also cause confusion. These publications provide clear, straight-forward information to help consumers to make informed choices on products and services which meet their individual needs."

Media contact: Brian Donlevy
(416) 590-7057

-30 -


Backgrounder:
Financial Services Commission of Ontario Consumer Publications

Shopping for Car Insurance provides helpful information for consumers who need to buy car insurance. Topics include mandatory and optional car insurance coverages, how car insurance rates are set, discounts and tips for young drivers. It also sets out rate information, a list of Ontario car insurance companies and results of FSCO's annual claims satisfaction survey, which shows the satisfaction rate of policyholders with the claims service offered by their insurance companies.

Ontario's Insurance Ombudsman -- Working for You describes the role of the Ombudsman's office in resolving consumer complaints about the business practices of automobile, property and casualty, life and health, and travel insurance companies in Ontario.

Somewhere to Turn: Consumer Protection in the Financial Marketplace provides information on FSCO's responsibilities and services. They include review of auto insurance rates, administration of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (MVACF), registration of pension plans, and licensing, regulation and enforcement activities.

Your Pension Rights: A Guide for Members of Registered Pension Plans in Ontario provides information such as financial planning for retirement, sources of retirement income, types of registered pension plans, vesting and locking-in of pension benefits, and what happens to your pension when you leave a job and how pensions are split in the event of a marriage breakdown.

Shopping for Travel Health Insurance provides valuable information about what travel health insurance policies cover, how to buy travel health insurance, how to get treatment and make a claim, and what must be included in an application for travel health insurance. It also includes a handy checklist to help consumers ask key questions when shopping for travel health insurance.

A Real Alternative describes the services offered by FSCO's Dispute Resolution Group, which offers mediation and arbitration services for individuals involved in disputes with their insurance companies over Statutory Accident Benefits (SABs). SABs help when you are recovering from an injury received in a car accident. In Ontario, mediation through FSCO is a mandatory first step for disputes over SABs.

A Guide to Applying for Special Access outlines circumstances, such as financial hardship or shortened life expectancy, under which people in Ontario may be able to access locked-in retirement savings accounts, including Locked-in Retirement Accounts (LIRA), Life Income Funds (LIF), and Locked-in Retirement Income Funds (LRIF).

To download a copy of any of these publications, consumers can visit FSCO's website at www.fsco.gov.on.ca and click on "Consumer Information", or they can call to get copies from FSCO at (416) 250-7250 or 1-800-668-0128. Consumers can also call the Ministry of Finance's Information Centre between 8:15 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, at 1-800-263-7965 (for English copies) or 1-800-668-5821 (for French copies). Callers can also leave a message at both of these numbers with their name, telephone number, address and names of the publications they need after hours, and their request will be filled as soon as possible.

Backgrounder:
Financial Services Commission of Ontario

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) was established in 1998 when the former Ontario Insurance Commission, Pension Commission of Ontario and the Deposit Institutions Division of the Ontario Ministry of Finance were amalgamated. The cost-recovered agency is an arms-length agency of the Ministry of Finance.

Under Ontario law, FSCO has responsibility under 12 statutes that govern insurance, pensions, credit unions, caisses populaires, cooperatives, loan and trust companies and mortgage brokers. This includes registering mortgage brokers and licensing insurance adjusters, general insurance agents and life insurance agents.

FSCO enforces these statutes to ensure a trustworthy, fair and competitive marketplace for consumers and companies alike. When it appears that an individual or company has violated the law, they are investigated and if necessary, action is taken.

FSCO has a responsibility to protect the interests of consumers. FSCO does this by:

  • offering consumers an informal, last-step forum for resolving disputes about insurance claims or the business practices of insurers through the Office of the Insurance Ombudsman.

  • ensuring that the car insurance marketplace is fair and competitive for consumers and insurers alike by monitoring and approving both the premium rates and driver classification systems used by insurance companies in Ontario.

  • helping insurance companies and consumers settle automobile accident benefit claims fairly and without delay through a series of dispute resolution processes -- mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation and appeals.

  • regulating pension plans to make sure they comply with the law; monitoring the administration and financial status of pension plans to ensure they deliver the benefits that have been promised to plan contributors; and reviewing plan amendments, pension plan wind-ups, distribution of surpluses and other transactions to make sure that members' benefits are protected.

  • helping consumers to make sure that their insurance agents, insurers or mortgage brokers are legitimate by providing up-to-date listings of licensed insurance companies, loan and trust companies, credit unions, caisses populaires, mortgage brokers, insurance agents and adjusters on its website.
For more information on FSCO, visit our website at www.fsco.gov.on.ca.