Joshua Willoughby, owner of Widgawa Lodge in Killarney, Ont., thought moving his bank accounts online would reduce paperwork and give him more time to concentrate on running his outfitting business.
That was before a major mixup with Desjardins Credit Union and an ensuing year-long battle with an ever-changing string of customer service representatives. The situation has left him $48,000 poorer and has the Canada Revenue Agency breathing down his neck.
“It sounds absurd, because that’s what it is,” Willoughby said.
Willougby said he decided to move his banking online with what Desjardins calls AccèsD, a service that aims to streamline and manage everyday business, back in 2016.
As part of the service, Willoughby said, you’re able to file HST remittances, which he does once a year.
“They were encouraging me to try it out, so I thought, ‘Wow, it’s going to be much more convenient, and doing my tax returns by pen and paper, and sending a cheque in the mail and all of that,'” Willoughby said.
“So I registered with my CRA number and all those things, and then made a payment in 2016, 2017 and 2018, 2019.”
Those payments — totalling approximately $48,000 — came out of his business account, Willoughby said, and he assumed everything was in order as payments were withdrawn. But in February, he received a notice from the CRA saying he was “seriously” in arrears.
Willoughby spoke with an agent at CRA who told him the payments hadn’t been received, yet.
“I’m a little cautious when I do online payments and things like that, so I’ll print out all the relevant documentation. I had a copy of every submission, and I sent them to her and she could see that the payments were made.”
‘No longer handling your accounts’
CRA gave him a two-week extension on filing while he sorted things out with Desjardins.
Willoughby said he contacted the credit union, looking to speak with his account manager. Up to that point, Willoughby said, he was extremely pleased with his account manager, who he had been dealing with since he opened the account and was familiar with his business needs.
However, she was no longer handling accounts.
“She said, ‘I was promoted two years ago and I’m no longer your account manager. So I said, ‘Who’s my account manager? What do I do when I need help? You’ve been helping me for 10 years.'”
According to Willoughby, Desjardins eliminated the position of account managers, opting to send customers to a 1-800 number that reaches customer service agents in Montreal.
“When you call the Montreal number, you will go into a call waiting list and then you will never speak to the same person twice,” he said. “So every time, you have to explain to the person who you are and what you’re doing in this situation.
“It’s just insane how this could have happened with a bank.”
In an email to the CBC, a representative from Desjardins said Willoughby’s case was an “isolated incident.”
“Please note that from AccèsD Affaires, government payments must be made from company accounts with 2 signatures,” the email says. “When a business account has only one signature, like Mr. Willoughby’s, the payment then remains pending and is not transferred to the CRA. A message then informs the member that two signatures are required for all Can-Act transactions.”
According to Desjardins’s website, the steps involved in remitting statements to CRA do not include adding a second signature.
As for the $48,000 missing from his account, Desjardins representative Jean-Benoit Turcotti said:
“According to our verifications, the money has not been taken out of his account. I don’t know why he says the money has been taken out of his account.”
Willoughby said the response from Desjardins was “ludicrous,” but following the CBC’s request, Desjardins reached out to him, saying they would set up a meeting with his former account manager.
“No one at Desjardins, not even a robocaller, took the responsibility or the action of advising me of this, by any means received by me, at no time,” Willoughby said in an email to CBC.
“I wonder what kind of “message” was supposed to inform me of the need for two signatures? And why such a message was not at any time ever received by me. Meanwhile, all of these funds not paid to CRA are accumulating a penalty and a ‘DAILY’ interest since 2016.”