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Can I Get my Money Back? Steps for Investors Seeking Financial Compensation

A couple researching about how to seek financial compensation from an investment firm
Learn about some of the ways you may seek recourse through a complaint, such as financial compensation.

Sometimes investors lose money because of an action or inaction made by their investment firm, and those investors may seek financial compensation from their investment firm. For example, your firm might have recommended investments that are unsuitable for you based on the information you gave them. The information below outlines some of the ways you may get your money back if you have suffered financial loss. The complaint process may involve a number of steps.

First, Make a Complaint with the Firm

If you are seeking financial compensation from an investment firm or their advising representative, the first step is to complain to the investment advisor or firm you dealt with. You can communicate your complaint in person or by phone, but it is always a good idea to send a written complaint, so that there is a record you raised a concern.

Your written complaint can be brief: include a short description of what went wrong and the consequences you suffered, plus the outcome you expect to resolve the issue. You can email your complaint or send it as a letter.

When you complain to a registered firm, the firm must acknowledge your complaint in writing as soon as possible. If the firm decides to reject your complaint or make an offer to resolve it, they must inform you of their decision in writing as soon as possible.

Take Your Complaint to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI)

If you are not satisfied with the registered firm’s response to your complaint or the firm hasn’t provided you with its decision in writing after 90 days, the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) may help resolve the dispute. You have 180 days to bring your complaint to OBSI after the firm has given you its decision in writing. OBSI is a free, independent service that provides impartial and informal reviews of investment disputes between participating firms and their clients. OBSI’s services are free to use, and can recommend compensation of up to $350,000 if it determines that you have been treated unfairly. Learn more about OBSI and their dispute resolution process.

OBSI considers disputes between individuals and:

  • investment dealers
  • mutual fund dealers
  • portfolio managers
  • exempt market dealers
  • scholarship plan dealers

You can complain directly to OBSI if the registered firm does not send you its decision in writing after 90 days. If the registered firm provides you with a decision in writing within 90 days, you have up to 180 days to submit a complaint to OBSI.


Note: You do not need a lawyer to complain to OBSI about a registered firm’s response to your complaint and during the complaint process.

You can make an online complaint to OBSI here. You may also contact OBSI by phone or email. OBSI provides accessibility tools to assist individuals with disabilities.

OBSI’s decisions are not legally binding, and if either you or the firm decides to not accept OBSI’s recommendation there are other options to seek financial compensation. 

Additional Options for Getting Your Money Back

Optional Process with a Registered Firm

Some registered firms (in particular, subsidiaries of Canadian banks) have their own optional, internal process that begins after the firm’s written decision. The staff administering this process are often called internal ombudsmen. A registered firm’s internal ombudsman is different from OBSI. You are not required to have a registered firm’s internal ombudsman consider your complaint before contacting OBSI. Using the registered firm’s internal ombudsman process could leave you with less than 180 days to complain to OBSI.

Civil Action

At any time, you may discuss your complaint with a lawyer to get legal advice. The Law Society of British Columbia has a Lawyer Directory that can help you find the names and contact information of lawyers licensed in BC.

If you consult a lawyer, you might hear about suing for compensation. There are two ways to do this in BC:

  1. BC Small Claims Court is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to sue for compensation and damages up to a maximum of $35,000. Most people represent themselves in small claims court.
  2. BC Supreme Court is the court you would use to sue for more than $35,000. In BC Supreme Court, a lawyer should represent you.

Binding Arbitration

If your complaint is about an investment dealer and the amount of the dispute is $500,000 or less, you can use the New Self-Regulatory Organization of Canada investment dealer division’s binding arbitration program as an alternative to going to court. In binding arbitration, you agree to treat the independent arbitrator’s decision as final, and you give up the right to go to court or use any other dispute resolution service, including OBSI.

How to Report Wrongdoing

The BC Securities Commission (BCSC) is responsible for protecting investors and regulating the province’s investment markets. Complaints we receive from the public to help us detect, disrupt, and deter market misconduct. If you suspect misconduct or believe your investment firm is involved in wrongdoing, contact us with your complaint or concern as soon as possible. You can also file a complaint anonymously using BCSC’s online complaint form. Read more about reporting fraud or misconduct to the BCSC.

As a provincial regulator, the BCSC also oversees other organizations that set and enforce rules of conduct for many market participants, including organizations that regulate investment dealers and mutual fund dealers. Canada’s provincial and territorial securities regulators have recognized the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization (CIRO). CIRO consolidates the functions of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA). In most cases, this self-regulatory organization would investigate investor complaints against members and their representatives and take disciplinary action.

Learn how to make a complaint with the IIROC and MFDA divisions of CIRO.

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