The catch CBC & CTV missed: Loblaws $25 “gift” card/hush money for bread price-fixing

The following three news reports cover various aspect of the Loblaws $25 “gift” card but missed an important catch that I want to discuss in this article.

  1. CBC News, “Loblaws $25 gift card registration now open, but there’s a catch – Signing up for gift card doesn’t preclude participating in class actions, but any payout would be deducted
  2. CTV News, “The catch: What Loblaw wants for its $25 gift card
  3. Huffington Post, “Take Loblaw’s Hush Money, But Don’t Keep Quiet – The bread price-fixing scheme is a moment when the curtain is pulled back and we get a peek into how things really work.

In short, the “catch” as others and CBC reported, “Signing up for gift card (and getting that $25) doesn’t preclude participating in class actions, but any payout would be deducted“.

The catch that is missed at least by CBC, CTV, and even Huffington Post is that as millions of Canadian adults apply for the gift cards is the “Retention and Cross-border Transfer” clause in the “Program Privacy Policy“. The “missed catch” is why should millions of Canadians subject our private and confidential information including

a) Full name
b) Date of Birth
c) Address
d) Home phone number,
e) Mobile phone number, and
f) email address

to courts of foreign countries including El Salvador or other random countries we don’t even know! When we are talking about millions of Canadians’ private and confidential data potentially being “stored, accessed, or used in a country outside of Canada “!! Why shouldn’t our data be treated with more care/respect and be stored in Canada and Canada alone?!

Don’t trust my words blindly. Visit the “Program Privacy Policy” link on the registration page, you will see (emphasis added):

“Program Privacy Policy
5. Retention and Cross-border Transfer
Personal Information may be stored, accessed, or used in a country outside of Canada by Loblaw, the Program Administrator, Blackhawk and/ or Peoples, or by service providers engaged by any of them, for any of the purposes identified in Section 4 above including the United States and El Salvador. Where Personal Information is located outside of Canada, it is subject to the laws of that jurisdiction which may differ from those in your jurisdiction and any Personal Information transferred to another jurisdiction will be subject to law enforcement and national security authorities in that jurisdiction.”

Canadians may want to question and challenge Loblaws’ Program Privacy Policy. by calling Loblaws and ask them directly or even ask our elected MPs and try to hold our government and the Competition Bureau accountable.

20180109 Loblaws price-fixing - program_privacy_policy - Screen Shot

Loblaws price-fixing – program_privacy_policy – Screen Shot

P.S. The Huffington Post, “Take Loblaw’s Hush Money, But Don’t Keep Quiet” raised some good points. (emphasis added)

In their announcement, Loblaw claimed they reported the price-fixing scheme as soon as they became aware of their role in it.

This raises a few questions: How many employees were involved? Was it the same group of employees over the 14-year period? How did they avoid getting caught for so long? Why would mid-level employees, as opposed to top executives, have any interest in the price-fixing scheme? How can we believe upper management was not aware of this arrangement, which involved coordination with other corporations?

Unfortunately, these questions may never be answered, because, according to Loblaw CEO Galen G. Weston, “As a result of the co-operation we have provided to the Competition Bureau, neither George Weston Ltd. nor Loblaw or their respective employees will face criminal charges or penalties.”

The penalties of price-fixing can include being imprisoned for up to five years, and/or being required to pay fines of up to $10 million. With this in mind, the decision to expose what some Loblaw employees had already known about for over a decade likely wasn’t motivated solely by a sense of goodwill, even if that was the primary factor.

The $25 gift card also doesn’t do nearly enough to cover damages. Many people in Canada could wander into their local Loblaw affiliated chain at any time during the period stated, pick up a loaf and be the victim of a multi-corporation scheme when they were rung through the cash. This process was quick. But in order to get any of this back, we have to jump through hoops. And real justice? If it ever comes, it will take years.

It’s nearly impossible to repair the damage done to Canadians, as I’m sure many Loblaw executives know, but revamping their brand is possible. That’s what’s at work here.

P.P.S. The enforceable tools of the Competition Bureau are powerful but I have to say I’m deeply disappointed (near sickened) by Competition Bureau letting the likes of Loblaws executives who had committed criminal offences against millions of Canadians off easy! Too easy!

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