Court strikes down ban on reward programs in B.C., thanks to Sobeys

Shoppers would not have beeen able to use their loyalty cards for prescription medications


British Columbians will once again be able to collect reward points on pharmacy purchases, thanks to Sobeys.

Last week, the Supreme Court of British Columbia struck down the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia bylaws, which banned the use of inducements and loyalty programs for prescription products and services.

READ: Loyalty point ban has B.C. grocers seeing red

Soon after the ban took effect in December 2013, Safeway Canada and Thrifty Foods, owned by Sobeys, filed a petition in hopes of overturning the bylaw which prohibited the use of Safeway’s Air Miles and Club Thrifty Foods Points on non-government funded pharmacy prescriptions.

The stores argued in their petition that loyalty programs help encourage pharmacist-patient relationships – and in turn, better care.

“We are delighted that as a result of our efforts, Safeway and Thrifty Foods’ pharmacy customers will once again be able to earn the rewards they enjoy to enrich their lives, help buy products and travel,” said Sandra Aylward, vice-president of professional and regulatory affairs with Sobeys, in a release.

Shortly after the Supreme Court reversed the bylaw, Safeway quickly reinstated its Air Miles rewards program and is now sending emails to customers to alert them (pictured).

Similar bylaws have already been established in Ontario, Newfoundland and Quebec.

READ: Rewards points for pharmacy purchases to continue in Alberta… for now

While Sobeys has claimed victory in B.C., they have waged a similar battle in Alberta.

In April, the Alberta College of Pharmacists announced rewards points would no longer be issued for pharmacy transactions. Sobeys countered, saying millions of Albertans collect rewards points at pharmacies, and referenced a survey suggestion the majority of consumers considered a ban unfair.

Sobeys announced in June a Queen’s Bench justice granted the store’s request for a stay on a ban until a judicial review hearing early next year.