That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ban all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada, through the enactment of a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Beauport—Limoilou.
It is an honour to stand here in this place today on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto, and in fact on behalf of all Canadians who are upset to the point of anger over unfair pay-to-pay fees. A pay-to-pay fee is a fee a customer is charged just for the right to pay their bill. This is patently unfair, and it plays out in a variety of different ways. Today, we are discussing, specifically, the banks.
Colleagues in the House will recall that the NDP led a very strong campaign to ban pay-to-pay fees, and due to that pressure the government introduced, in its last budget, the one before this one, measures to ban pay-to-pay fees on telephone companies, ISPs, telecommunications companies and cable companies. However, it did not include banks in that ban. Of course, when that did not happen, banks were free to do what they wanted with pay-to-pay fees, and we have seen them increase and expand.
Right now, pay-to-pay fees, just on transactions, just on statements that are mailed to people's houses, are worth about $180 million a year. That is $180 million that Canadian consumers have to pay the banks, the big five, just to get their statements in the mail. This is outrageous. It is ridiculous. It is unfair.
Today we have an opportunity to finally close the door on this unfair practice that Canadians from coast to coast to coast agree is unfair. I am sure my colleagues across the way on the government side have heard from their constituents about these fees. It is time for all of us to do the right thing, do what we were sent here to do, and that is fight for, protect and speak up for Canadians who sent us here, who we represent.
Banks are some of the most powerful corporations in the country. There are very few institutions that can stand up to a bank. An individual small business, an individual person, a hard-working Canadian, has a tough time doing that. However, that is what we are here to do. That is what we can do today.
I invite my colleagues from all the parties to support this motion to ban pay-to-pay fees. I want to read a bit of a letter that I received on this issue from a woman named Cynthia in my riding, a small business person, who said:
I have multiple accounts with TD Canada Trust and have been a customer with them for 30 years(!).
Now, this is what we call customer appreciation.
They charge $2 for EACH account statement.
I 've opted for online billing, but I need to print out copies for my records, so I end up paying for ink and paper to print my own bills. Either way, I lose.
Many in my riding have their own businesses. I represent a riding with many small, micro-entrepreneurs who are trying to make a living, oftentimes out of their own homes. She goes on to say:
I have my own business. I can only laugh at the idea that my customers would be agreeable to me charging them for printed invoices.
When was the last time any of us went to a restaurant, for example, and when we got the bill had to pay for the bill, too? That is what is happening. It is a big business; $180 million.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre found in a survey that it did that almost 40% of Canadians said they were not comfortable or could not use online billing, and 74% said they disapprove of companies charging extra for bills or statements.
Let us talk about who this would affect the most. It would affect those who do not have Internet access, seniors, persons with disabilities, many people for whom English or French is not their first language, and people who do not want to bank online for a variety of good reasons. In a sense, it affects communities that are already at some level of disadvantage in our society, and it is our job to ensure that they are treated equally and fairly.
These are unfair charges, and they are allowed to happen because the current government has opened the door for them. Whenever we talk about pay-to-pay fees here, the government rebuts the idea by touting the code of conduct under which the banks are governed. I am sure the government will do that today. However, what the Conservatives will not say, but what we will remind them of today, is that the code of conduct that they trumpet is a voluntary code of conduct. Let us imagine if the commute of Canadians watching this today was governed by a voluntary code of conduct. I can only imagine what Highway 401 would look like if it was governed by a voluntary code of conduct, but that is basically what we have going on here with the banks.
Why would the government not ensure that banks were following a code of conduct that is mandatory, not one that the banks can pursue by choice? When it is by choice, we see consumers having their pockets picked time and again while the Conservative government stands by and watches it happen and essentially allows it.
We have an opportunity today to do something very important for consumers right across the country.
A couple of weeks ago, one of the five big banks—which, by the way, just posted over $2 billion in profits in its recent quarter alone—announced that it would charge extra pay-to-pay fees just for the right to make a mortgage payment, a student loan payment, or a credit card payment. It wanted to charge an extra bit of money just to pay a bill, until a huge outcry both on the street and in the House of Commons forced RBC to back down.
However, that did not stop it and all of the other five big banks from increasing fees on everyday transactions. Someone told me recently that when they took out $40 at a bank machine, they were charged $4.50 to take out their own money. That is outrageous. We need to have a serious conversation about what is and is not fair.
It would be one thing if these businesses were in distress, but how is it that the government allows Canadian banks, who are all posting over $2 billion in profit every quarter, to nickel-and-dime hard-working Canadians? Shame on the government.
Today we have the opportunity to do the right thing by hard-working Canadians who have to play by the rules, make ends meet, and work hard. They do not deserve to have their pockets picked in this way. Today we have an opportunity to right this unfair practice.
I look forward to this debate today and to this House agreeing tonight that we will end pay-to-pay fees forever.