OTTAWA — Canadians are not only overwhelmingly happy with the quality of service they receive from their own bank, but the majority are also satisfied with the banking fees and service charges they are forced to pay.
At least that’s what polling firm Ipsos Reid discovered after being commissioned by the federal Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) earlier this year to survey Canadians on how they feel about their financial institutions. The survey result was recently posted to a public government site.
FCAC is an independent body established by the federal government in 2001 to protect and inform consumers of financial services.
The findings are somewhat surprising as the narrative in political circles has been that Canadians are fed up with banking fees and service charges, with the Conservative government even promising in the throne speech earlier this month to expand no-cost basic banking services.
FCAC spokeswoman Natasha Nystrom said in an email that the agency commissioned the survey of 1,000 Canadians as part of a more comprehensive study on banking fees that is due for release in the coming months.
The survey’s specific detailed results weren’t available, but a summary prepared by Ipsos Reid and published online shows about 80 per cent of respondents with chequing or savings accounts in the country’s six largest banks were satisfied with quality of service they receive.
“The Big Six banks have put in place a large and convenient branch network for Canadians to fulfil their banking needs,” the executive summary reads.
“In addition, the Big Six banks have invested huge sums of money in new technology such as mobile banking and new payment methods to make banking even more convenient.”
The survey also found that while Canadians were less enthused about their fees than other banking features, about six in 10 respondents were still satisfied with how much they pay.
Canadian Banking Association spokeswoman Maura Drew-Lytle acknowledged the findings may be counterintuitive given what is often said about Canada’s banking system, particularly in the media and political circles.
But she said the findings match what industry has found in its own polling, which she believed reflect an appreciation of the Canadian banking sector’s strength and stability, particularly after the financial crisis undermined banking systems in so many other countries.
“And fees are a funny thing because nobody’s going to say they like paying fees, regardless of what it is,” Drew-Lytle added. “But I think you also have to look at the value. What kind of value are you getting for your service fees?”
The survey did not indicate how much the average respondent paid in banking fees or service charges, though those who did exceed their monthly limit on transactions paid on average $2 to $5 extra per month.
While some may argue the survey’s results show no need for the federal government to become involved in policing banking fees, Consumers Council of Canada executive director Kenneth Whitehurst said the results should prompt the opposite.
“A lot of people are happy because they don’t pay fees. So they aren’t impacted when fees increase,” he said. “But some people pay fee increases all the time. And if you are in that group that pays fee increases, do you have legitimate grievances?”
The survey also found that only about five per cent of households used companies like PC Financial and ING Direct that offered no-fee banking options, and only about one in 10 respondents planned to switch banks at some point in time.
The questions did not address ATM or credit card fees, which have been identified by the federal NDP as another area where the government should get involved.
The average respondent reported having less than $2,000 in their chequing or savings accounts.
The FCAC survey cost $25,000 and was conducted by telephone with a pre-screened group of respondents between March 13-21. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News