Dumb & Dumber II: RBC, Davis + Henderson, & the CPA

Christopher Rath

2006-01-08

Introduction

Recently, in preparation for the wide scale implementation of the digitisation of cheques received by banks and other financial institutions---and the subsequent optical character recognition of the text written on those cheques---the Canadian Payments Association has standardised the manner in which dates must be written on Canadian cheques.

The CPA has deemed that all dates should be written in numeric format; where any one of three formats are supported: DDMMYYYY, MMDDYYYY, or the ISO format of YYYYMMDD. The latter format, ISO format, is also the Canadian government standard, and the format that most multinational corporations use. Two other factoids are also worth noting: day-month (DDMMYYYY) format is the date format most Canadians believe is standard and month-day (MMDDYYYY) format is the date format most Americans believe is standard; and so both groups of nationals commonly use their preferred format.

There are two reasons the International Standards Organisation (ISO) chose year-month-day format: (1) YMD format is the only format that is unambiguous, and (2) YMD format is the only format that properly sorts when a numeric sort is applied.

Ambiguity example: 20060201 can always be correctly deciphered, whereas 02012006 may only be correctly deciphered if one has other information. 02012006 is either 1 February or 2 January, but the reader must infer the valid interpretation based upon the context the date appears within.

Sorting examples: the tables below each show how the various date formats sort when an alphanumeric (or numeric) sort is applied to the dates.  Note how the rows do not appear in the same order in each example sort. and only the first set of dates are correctly ordered.

Alphanumeric Sorting of Dates

#

YYYY-MM-DD

 

#

MM-DD-YYYY

 

#

DD-MM-YYYY

1

1995-12-21

 

3

01-01-2006

 

3

01-01-2006

2

2001-12-12

 

4

02-02-2006

 

4

02-02-2006

3

2006-01-01

 

5

03-05-2006

 

5

05-03-2006

4

2006-02-02

 

6

05-30-2006

 

8

06-07-2006

5

2006-03-05

 

7

06-18-2006

 

2

12-12-2001

6

2006-05-30

 

8

07-06-2006

 

7

18-06-2006

7

2006-06-18

 

2

12-12-2001

 

1

21-12-1995

8

2006-07-06

 

1

12-21-1995

 

6

30-05-2006

The Problem

As a result of the CPA’s date standardisation decision, companies that print cheques have altered their cheque offerings in order to comply with the new standard. This itself isn’t a problem, but the manner in which RBC (a financial institution) and Davis + Henderson (a cheque printing company) have responded to the CPA decision is a problem.

I discovered this CPA change this past November (November 2005) when our family supply of cheques was running low and I ordered new cheques. When the cheques arrived they had a numeric date format, but that format was in day-month form. Having actively worked with computers since 1977, I have trained myself to use year-month-day (YYYYMMDD) format, for the reasons listed above. This, in addition to the fact that the official Canadian government standard is ISO 8601 format, caused me to call Davis + Henderson (RBC's consumer cheque printer) to attempt to purchase cheques with an ISO format date block.

Davis + Henderson tells callers that they have chosen month-day format because this is the new CPA standard; this is a lie. Most Davis + Henderson order desk agents will also tell callers that Davis + Henderson no longer prints cheques in any format except day-month-year; which is also a lie. I did find one Davis + Henderson order taker who researched the problem for me and did determine that they do print cheques with an ISO format date block; although to-date I have been yet to receive these new cheques.

RBC tells callers that the new cheque format is imposed upon them by Davis + Henderson; this is a lie, and RBC's own website proves it. When I spoke to an RBC customer relations manager and challenged this "imposed by Davis + Henderson" assertion by stating that since RBC has established a contract with Davis + Henderson it could have required ISO date formats on cheques, the manager told me that RBC made the most economical decision for their clients; something I won’t call an outright lie, but is a very questionable statement.

This is yet another example of how disconnected big business has become from their customers. Most financial institutions, insurance companies, airlines, etc. have lost their sense of customer service. RBC and Davis + Henderson are just two recent examples.

The CPA is also without any sense of customer service. I have repeatedly attempted to contact them to report to them the fact that Davis + Henderson is misrepresenting the CPA’s position, but neither individual at the CPA that I have left messages for (the individuals that the CPA receptionist says are the persons identified to discuss this recent cheque format decision) has ever returned my calls; and I have left several messages.

Update [2007-01-15]

Since writing this page I did receive cheques with a YMD date format.

Also, I recently received email from another Ontario resident who was attempting to purchase YMD formatted cheques.  He also successful purchased YMD cheques from Davis+Henderson, and in speaking with a manager there learned two additional facts about Davis+Henderson's cheques: YMD formatted cheques are only available in two cheque styles (Marquis and Blue Marble), and MMDDYYYY formatted cheques are not available.  Lastly, the two YMD cheques styles are more expensive than Davis+Henderson's standard cheques, but when challenged on this point the Davis+Henderson manager agreed to sell the YMD cheques at the standard price.


©Copyright 2006–2007, Christopher & Jean Rath
Telephone: 613-824-4584
Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
Last updated: 2007/02/25 @ 11:41:23 ( )