Canadian Security Magazine

Federal privacy commissioner seeks info from Loblaw following reports

By The Canadian Press   

News Retail gift cards loblaw loyalty cards privacy privacy commissioner

OTTAWA — The federal privacy commission has asked Loblaw Companies Ltd. for more information about its request for some customers to provide personal identification to secure a gift card related to the alleged bread price-fixing scandal.

Privacy concerns have been raised by customers about the grocer’s request for information such as a scan of their driver’s license or utility bill in order to receive the card.

The agency tweeted that it is reaching out for information “after media reports on authentication practices” related to issuing $25 gift cards.

Privacy Commission guidelines say individuals should be made aware of the reason the information is being collected and that it should only be used for the purposes for which it was collected.

“If there is no legal requirement to do so, or the organization does not intend to maintain an ongoing relationship with an individual, it likely does not need to identify an individual,” said the document linked to the tweet.


It added that driver’s license or social insurance numbers shouldn’t be used as an identifier because they were created for different purposes.

Loblaw vice president of corporate affairs Kevin Groh said he company is only collecting the information for verification purposes and will then destroy it.

“This program is designed to pay people back quickly and directly, without requiring proof of purchase or forcing customers to wait for a class action lawsuit….for a small percentage, we’ve asked for proof of name and address,” he said in an email.

There are various triggers that might lead the company to ask for further confirmation, including large numbers of registrations from a single address, multiple requests under a single or similar name, or irregularities like in invalid address or email in a registration, said Groh.

“Our plan to distribute tens of millions of dollars is a natural target for fraudsters, and we want to make sure this money is actually landing in our customers’ hands.”

The vast majority of customers won’t be required to make the additional step, said Groh.

Loblaw has offered customers a $25 gift card as a goodwill gesture after admitting participating in what they say was an industry-wide arrangement to fix bread prices.

Loblaw recorded a charge of $107 million in relation to the gift card program and said it expects the program to cost the company between $75 million and $150 million, with an estimated three million to six million consumers signing up.

The decision to ask some for ID sparked customer outrage online. Some pointed to the perceived irony of the company’s apparent fraud prevention measure, given that the gift cards are a gesture of apology for deceiving the public.

Grocery competitors have denied any wrongdoing and criticized Loblaw for misleading the public and making other retailers appear guilty.

The head of Sobey’s parent company, Empire Co. Ltd., said Wednesday that it expects the cards will have some impact on its sales.

“We’re expecting to see increased pressure on sales in fourth quarter as those curious gift cards from our competitor…continue to hit the market,” CEO Michael Medline said during a conference call about its third-quarter results.

— With files from Ross Marowits in Montreal

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2018

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