Canada: Competition Bureau To Study FinTech Market

Last Updated: June 15 2016
Article by Christopher Hersh and Suhuyini Abudulai

The Competition Bureau (the Bureau) launched a market study on May 19, 2016, that will examine the competitive landscape for technology-led innovation and emerging services in the Canadian financial services sector.

As financial services providers increasingly incorporate new technologies when offering services (e.g. P2P, mobile wallet, crowd funding and "robo" advisors), the Bureau seeks to better understand the make-up of the Canadian financial technology (FinTech) industry and factors affecting its growth. A stated focus is to consider the impact of market forces and the existing regulatory regime on innovation and competition in the financial services sector.

One reason for the study is found in the Bureau's mandate to advocate the benefits of competition. In recent reviews of financial sector policy, the federal Department of Finance has often identified increased competition as a goal with anticipated public benefits. When the federal government next engages in a financial sector policy review, the Bureau should be well positioned to give informed comment about some of the competitive factors affecting FinTech providers.

Participants in the financial sector and participants in the technology sector are subject to a mix of federal and provincial laws that are sometimes based on the form of the entity (i.e., regulated financial institution vs. telecom carrier vs. unregulated service provider), and sometimes based on the activities carried out. Accordingly, this market study will provide a valuable opportunity for the Bureau to look at the coming together of service providers and innovators in the financial sector and the technology sector, and assess whether the existing regulatory landscape over- or under-regulates industry participants in ways that prevent innovation or limit competition.

The Bureau does not intend to study all consumer financial services that reflect technological innovation. For instance, insurance, crypto-currencies, payday loans and loyalty programs are excluded from the study. However, the Bureau has indicated that it may expand its scope as the study progresses.

The study aims to address the following:

  • the impact of technology-led innovation on the current and future competitive landscape for the provision of financial services; 
  • how consumers will benefit from FinTech; 
  • identifying regulatory or structural barriers to entry for FinTech companies; 
  • whether the regulatory framework for financial services supports or inhibits competition currently; 
  • the sufficiency – and flexibility – of consumer protections currently in place; and 
  • issues for consideration, from a competition perspective, when revising existing laws.

The progression of the study will be closely followed by the financial services industry and FinTech service providers. It is important for industry participants to participate in the study to ensure that the Bureau has an accurate and balanced view regarding the structure and competitive dynamics in the Canadian FinTech sector. This because, beyond any advocacy initiatives the Bureau may take, the information obtained through this study will inform the Bureau's enforcement activities – in particular with regard to the potential application of the abuse of dominant position, competitor collaborations and merger review provisions of the Competition Act.

The results of the study will be published in a Spring 2017 report. In the interim, the Bureau has indicated that it welcomes submissions (either written or oral) or indications of interest in participating in an interview process before June 30, 2016.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Christopher Hersh
Suhuyini Abudulai
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