Ontario family shocked when TD Bank abruptly closes accounts, tells them to go elsewhere

Saadia Zakki was shocked to get a break-up letter from her bank.

She and her husband, parents of two young children, have all their accounts, investments and credit cards with TD Bank Group, where they have been clients for 10 years. She says their accounts were in good standing.

But they got a letter in April saying they would have to go elsewhere for their banking. TD was discontinuing the couple’s financial services.

“I was literally in tears and I was shaking as to what’s happening,” the Markham resident told CTV Toronto.

The bank gave no indication in the letter as to why it was taking the step, except to say: “TD periodically conducts a review of all its customer relationships … as a result … we can no longer continue to support your current accounts and/or services.”

Zakki was told to close her accounts and move her business elsewhere.

“It’s kind of an embarrassing feeling that you are being kicked out of the bank.”

TD says severing relationships with customers is carefully considered and not done lightly but a spokesperson would not comment on this case.

“As a matter of policy, and to respect the privacy of all parties involved, we do not comment on customer-specific account activity,” Lynsey Wynberg, manager of corporate and public affairs, told CTV Toronto.

Zakki said the bank cancelled her debit cards, leaving her stranded without money. She was able to set up with another bank but lost about $1,600 in air travel rewards she was saving to take her family to Walt Disney World.

She wants an explanation from the bank.

“I want to know why they are doing this. I wouldn’t want to be in the same situation again,” she said.

“They are making money on our money and at the end of the day, they are the bosses. They can let you go at any time.”

Zakki tried filing a complaint with the TD ombudsman but was told this isn’t within the office’s jurisdiction.

According to Canadian business law firm McMillan, banks are required to close accounts if they suspect fraudulent activity or ties to terrorism. But in other cases, the reasons are “occasionally less clear and clients, not always thrilled to learn that their bank accounts have been terminated, will often take issue with the right of the bank to do so,” reads a litigation bulletin from 2011 posted on the McMillan website.

The courts have upheld the rights of banks to terminate relationships, says McMillan. “Courts will not read in an obligation that the bank continue to operate the accounts indefinitely and financial institutions are not required to continue to contract with clients they no longer wish to do business with. In short, banks do not require a ‘commercially reasonable justification’ for terminating an account.”

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments investigated 370 banking-related complaints in 2017, with ended relationships accounting for 17 of them. It was the highest reason for complaint for personal accounts. There were also four complaints for a cancelled credit card and three for a cancelled line of credit.

Overall, an ended relationship was the second-most cited reason for complaint to the OBSI behind fraud.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Pat Foran Consumer Reporter

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