The Quebec government has grand ambitions: its 2016-2017 budget reveals that it wants to seize the opportunity to undertake a review of several major laws that govern Quebec's financial sector.
For each law, Quebec says that all interested parties have had an opportunity to express their concerns, and to respond to both findings and proposals. Now the government has announced that it is time to introduce reforms, and to include all of them in a single piece of legislation.
When will this bill be tabled? Richard Boivin, assistant deputy minister at the Quebec Ministry of Finance, gave an interview to FlashFinance.ca, a sister publication of The Insurance and Investment Journal. "It may be this spring or fall, it is yet to be decided," said Boivin, who is responsible for the regulation of financial institutions.
As he says it will be an omnibus bill, the announced changes will not necessarily be sweeping ones.
The affected laws are:
- The Act respecting insurance
- The Act respecting trust companies and savings companies
- The Act respecting financial services cooperatives
- The Securities Act;
- The Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services
- The Derivatives Act;
- The Act respecting real estate brokerage
- The Act respecting the Autorité des marchés financiers
Boivin says that Quebec "would like" to table the bill this spring, but he did not give a specific time frame. Discussions could be held at the province’s Committee on Public Finance, among others, he added.
Online insurance sales: not prohibited
However, the government's plans show that it is willing to see online insurance sales regulated under the provincial Insurance Act.
"We want to set standards for the future," said Boivin, who noted that at the moment online insurance sales are possible in Quebec because there is no prohibition against them. "We want to regulate it better, either by rules or by principles."
As for insurers, Boivin says it is a simple matter. "We want consumers to always have access to a licensed representative throughout the application process should they wish to have it."
From the advisor's perspective, Boivin questions the feasibility of consumers doing business over Internet given the market conduct rules to which brokers are subject.
"I am expressing a personal opinion here, but I wonder: is it possible to perform a needs analysis over the Internet in accordance with the rules of professional conduct? This is questionable," he said.
Boivin says this is particularly true when the code requires that information be collected by the broker personally. He explains that, since he is not the person responsible for administering this portion of the Act, the question should be put to Quebec's Chambre de l’assurance de dommages.
What does the Chambre think?
"The code of ethics applies to all brokers and agents," responds the Chambre's CEO Maya Raic. "The Internet is only a distribution channel."
"The code is based on principles that apply regardless of the means of distribution," comments Raic. For example, it stipulates that whether it be over the Internet or in person, a representative may not make, by any means whatsoever, representations that are false, misleading, or likely to mislead.