FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has introduced a new Unclaimed Property Act which includes the creation of a program to better protect consumers.

“This program will benefit both consumers and businesses,” said Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves. “Consumers will gain by having money returned to them that they may have forgotten about, and New Brunswick businesses and organizations will benefit from being relieved of the expense and liability of holding this property on behalf of consumers.”

The Unclaimed Property Act will create a program to administer unclaimed monetary property in the province, which will protect consumers and inject funds into the economy by returning money to consumers.

It will also provide requirements for businesses and government entities that are holding unclaimed monetary property to attempt to locate owners and, if unsuccessful, to report and remit the property to the program.

The assets in question could include forgotten paycheques, provincial credit union accounts, security deposits from utility companies, investments, or a life insurance policy payout, to name a few. It does not include real estate, vehicles or money in forgotten accounts at a federally chartered bank. The Financial and Consumer Services Commission will be responsible for administering the program.

“Each year, thousands – potentially millions of dollars, go unclaimed by the rightful owners,” said Rick Hancox, CEO of the commission. “We will work with businesses, government organizations and other institutions to put the money back where it belongs – in the hands of its rightful owners.”

New Brunswick will be the fourth province to implement an unclaimed property program. The program draws from the best practices in other jurisdictions.

Following royal assent of the act, New Brunswick businesses will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rules.

“I believe strongly that this program will be beneficial to both businesses and consumers in New Brunswick,” said Peter Moorhouse, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau for the Atlantic Provinces. “The clarity that this program will offer about the process businesses should follow when there is unclaimed property will make it much simpler for companies, reducing cost and uncertainty.”

New Brunswickers are invited to stay up to date on the progress of this program by subscribing to the commission email updates.

Once the commission has an inventory of unclaimed financial assets, it will launch a one-stop searchable website that will allow New Brunswickers to see if they have any financial assets. Searches will be free of charge. Until then, New Brunswickers can take steps on their own to track down unclaimed financial property. Information is available online to help New Brunswickers get started.

“This new program will reconnect New Brunswickers with their property they may have forgotten about while also relieving the burden on organizations and government agencies of having to keep track of unclaimed funds,” Hancox said. “It is really a win-win outcome.”

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation that regulates the following sectors: securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Educational tools and resources are available online.