OHRC, CHRC, BMO, OMG I’m Acronym Drunk

Not one to let grass grow under my feet, I contacted the Ontario Human Rights Commission today.  As suspected this is a federal issue, since the banks are federally regulated.  I was referred to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) where I initiated an inquiry to determine if I have a complaint that can move forward.  The CHRC intake clerk asked me for grounds of the potential complaint – in this case  – marital status.  In Canada the individual cannot be discriminated against due to marital status.  After supplying the base information needed to open a file, I was advised by the CHRC that I would receive a call within the next two weeks to obtain the details of my discrimination.  Based on that discussion the CHRC will advise me whether they are prepared to move forward or continue my complaint.

The challenge here is that banks as well as insurance companies have carved an impasse between themselves and the common law that applies broadly to society.  Reinforcing this notion that banks are treated separate and apart from most of industry is the fact that, here in Canada, they have their own Ombudsman – The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI).  On the OBSI  website it states:

“OBSI resolves disputes between participating banking services and investment firms and their customers if they can’t solve them on their own. We are independent and impartial, and our services are free to consumers. You must first complain to the firm involved, but if you remain unsatisfied you have a right to bring your case to us. As an alternative to the legal system, we work informally and confidentially to find a fair outcome.” (https://www.obsi.ca/en/about-us)

It may simply turn out that the CHRC doesn’t have the teeth to tackle an industry as powerful as BMO.  There are enough issues where the outcome might show more promise than taking on the banks, banks may be too well insulated for the CHRC to affect change.  Speculation on my part because now I have to play a waiting game.  No problem – just gives me more time to build my case.

 

BMO and the Widow – Let the Games Begin

I sit here in front of the computer making one of the dozens of calls that I have to make to different utilities, credit card companies, etc. where Kevin may have been the addressee on the monthly statements.  There are far more than most people would suspect, at least than I did, and frankly it is not an easy thing to do.  First, if Kevin is the addressee, if the bill is sent out in Kevin’s name, then I have to prove identity or provide proof of relationship by answering various security questions.  After authenticity of identity is established the ordeal begins.  I want to retain the billing history, but most places don’t want you to.  It’s got everything to do with internal practices and likely with rates as well.  Long-time customers usually have greater entitlements if they are savvy enough to ask for them.  New customers have none until they have established a credit history.  I want the billing history and I feel that I am entitled to it.

Why retain the billing history?  First of all, it can influence whether or not you have to pay a security deposit for a service.  Second, it’s actually my history, mine and Kevin’s true, but essentially I am entitled to the history.  If I died, he’d keep it, why then if he dies do I lose it? I certainly won’t “lose” the outstanding balance – banks are ruthless in that regard.  Third, I don’t want to fill out any more paperwork or go through any additional credit checks; I did that once when I went on as a joint card holder.  Fourth, my new credit limit and my new interest rate will be established based on earnings only not on the payment record with the institution over the last 30 years.  Consequently, I want them to do a name change, they can do it conditionally, I don’t care.  Change the name on the account with a six month probationary period, put on conditions that stipulate that if I miss a payment then the account is shut down, freeze it or do whatever.

As I type I am on hold with Customer Service at the Bank of Montreal going through the full spiel about why I want to do a transfer of credit card ownership, not a new cardholder agreement. I’ve gone through the initial dialogue with the frontline – the customer service clerk.  Now I’m onto the Customer Service Manager.  Although she’s very sympathetic, she is inflexible.  So am I. It’s a lot of effort, but trust me, this is worth it.  Keeping almost 30 years of credit history will make life a whole bunch easier at some point down the road.

This smacks of systemic discrimination against all secondary cardholders.  The fact is that contractually the institution considered both of us equally responsible for the debt. This should work both ways, I believe that the institution should be obligated to consider both of us as equally deserving of the credit history compiled as clients. I believe that I have been penalized because I was not identified as the primary cardholder, yet the card that I use has a clear assignation that it is mine in that it identifies me as the cardholder and has a unique number that is assigned only to me.  I own the card and I own the debt and, rightfully, I should own the history.  I consider payments made against that card under my name to be mine, and yet the bank suggests that these are not mine but rather my husband’s, although his credit card number is uniquely different.

Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that it is right.  It’s time to challenge this practice.  This is one for the Ontario Human Rights Commission – to start with.  It’s likely out of their league but I will follow due process.  The bank was inflexible and I have already lost the credit history – that occurred by the end of the telephone conversation when I was advised that they had cancelled the card. In this case I would suggest to the Bank of Montreal, you may have won the battle but don’t consider yourselves as having won the war – not yet.  This could take years but I have nothing but time. If it flies, then how far back in time is it reasonable that the BMO and other like banking institutions be investigated for practices that generated profits (directly and indirectly) off the back of human tragedy?