Conservatives to back NDP push for ban on pay-to-pay bank fees
'Our government understands the concerns of Canadians who feel nickel and dimed by bank fees'
Flush from its success in ending the tax on feminine hygiene products, the NDP has won the Conservatives' support for a motion to end the so-called "pay-to-pay" fees charged by big banks.
"Pay-to-pay" fees are additional fees charged for basic transactions like loans, mortgage payments and debit withdrawals.
- Royal Bank backs down on fees for credit card, mortgage payments
- New bank fees target kids' accounts and allow 'double-dipping,' say customers
- ATM fee cap should be 50 cents per transaction, NDP says
On Monday, the Official Opposition introduced the motion calling for an end to practices such as charging for paper bills and for the adoption of a financial code of conduct to protect consumers.
A spokeswoman for Government Whip John Duncan confirmed that Conservative MPs will back the move.
"Our government understands the concerns of Canadians who feel nickel and dimed by bank fees, which is why we are supporting the motion," policy adviser Christine Maydossian said in a statement.
The Conservatives have already brought in "tough measures to protect Canadians from predatory banking practices," she said.
"Banning pay-to-pay bank fees is the kind of thing we intend to look at including in our mandatory financial consumer protection framework that we promised in Economic Action Plan 2015."
One of the most disputed fees is for customers who choose to receive a monthly paper bill in the mail. The NDP says this unfairly targets seniors, who might not feel comfortable viewing bills online.
Andrew Cash, the NDP's consumer protection critic, tabled the motion as part of his efforts to get rid of banking user fees.
It comes after a separate NDP motion was unanimously approved by the Commons last week to exempt feminine hygiene products from the GST. That motion passed after women in the Conservative caucus threatened to boycott the vote if their party didn't approve.
A vote on a government ways and means motion to lift the federal tax as of July 1 passed easily Monday night, with all MPs voting in favour.
The so-called tampon tax was seen as discriminatory towards women, but Cash says the fees charged by banks for paper bills are bad for all Canadians.
'Patently unfair fees': NDP MP
"These are just patently unfair fees," said Cash.
"We don't want hardworking Canadians to get their pockets picked on a regular basis by the banks."
Last year, the government blocked telecommunication and cable companies from charging fees for paper bills, but excluded banks from a similar ban.
Cash said he believes grassroots Conservative supporters are as "ticked off" by the fees as any other group of Canadians.
In recent months, Canada's large banks have all moved to raise some of the fees they charge customers.
The Royal Bank attracted the most attention when it announced a plan to charge customers a fee to make credit card, loan and mortgage payments under certain circumstances.
However the bank reversed its decision to include those transactions in a customer's monthly limit of free debit transactions.
Royal Bank was widely criticized for the new charge that was part of a broader change to the fees it charges customers.
Late Monday, Cash gave notice of a second motion on the unpopular fees in an attempt to capitalize on the apparent Conservative support and force action before Parliament rises for the summer and the subsequent fall election.
Tactically, it mirrors the NDP's successful initiative on the tampon tax last week.
The new motion reads:
That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Finance that it have the power to expand the scope of Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, in order to provide for a mandatory financial code of conduct that would protect consumers by banning all pay-to-pay practices by banks operating in Canada.
With files from CBC News