FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, March 25, 2008 – The Law Commission of Ontario today issued its first Consultation Paper. It is seeking public input on whether the charging of fees for cashing government cheques concerns Ontarians, and if so, on the most effective approaches for addressing concerns. The Consultation Paper summarizes key issues and options for reform, and is intended as a focal point for discussion and consultation. Written submissions will be accepted until Friday, June 13, 2008. Based on the Law Commission’s independent research, including responses to the Consultation Paper, the Law Commission will issue a Final Report with findings and recommendations. A number of Canadian jurisdictions have taken steps to ensure that consumers are able to receive government payments without paying high fees. Manitoba and British Columbia have recently developed legislation that enables them to set maximum rates for such fees. Other jurisdictions have moved towards direct deposit programs for government payments, or have developed indemnity programs with the banks that ensure government cheques can be cashed without fees. In Ontario, cheque-cashing businesses cash third-party cheques immediately, as long as adequate personal identification is provided. The businesses usually charge a flat fee plus a percentage of the face value of the cheque. For example, the charge for cashing a $500 cheque may range between $15 and $20. Concerns have been raised that high fees for cashing government cheques are having a significant impact on low-income Canadians, said Dr. Patricia Hughes, Executive Director of the Law Commission. “Government payments often are aimed at some of the most vulnerable populations in Ontario, individuals who can least afford to pay high fees in order to access their benefits.” Dr. Hughes said public consultation is a vital element of the Law Commission’s work and the Commission hopes to hear from a large number of Ontarians on the subject of cheque-cashing fees. “The Law Commission wants to ensure that its work is accessible and responsive to all Ontario communities,” she added.
Launched last September, the Law Commission operates independently of government to recommend law reforms to enhance access to justice.
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Dr. Patricia Hughes
Law Commission of Ontario