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Tim Hortons app users to get free hot drink and doughnut after Quebec Supreme Court approves class-action settlement



Tim Hortons mobile app users can now get a free hot beverage and baked good after the Quebec Supreme Court approved a settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit involving the coffee chain’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International Inc. (RBI).

The lawsuit alleged that the restaurant chain’s app violated users’ privacy without proper notice and consent, even though Tim Hortons presented his collection of geolocation data. In an email, Tim Hortons notified Canadian residents who used the app between April 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020 and collected their geolocation data at least once that the settlement was approved.

As part of the comparison, eligible users were awarded two credits expire 24 months after issue, redeemable for a free hot beverage and a free baked good at participating locations. Those who received the notice will automatically be included in the settlement and will no longer be able to opt out or object, the coffee chain said.

“This is the only remedy and relief you now have with respect to the class action,” the email said.

Michael Oliveira, spokesman for Tim Hortons, said in an email statement that eligible app users received the email on February 1 and those who did not receive the email but believe that should they receive them, they can contact the company’s digital support team.

The company has agreed to the settlement without admitting liability. The allegations have not been proven in court and are denied by the defendants.

RBI said it has has already taken action to permanently delete all app user-collected geolocation information in its possession. Third-party provider Radar Labs Inc. has also been instructed to do the same.

The settlement agreement comes months after then-federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien, along with his counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, launched an investigation into the Tim Hortons app in 2020 following a report by Financial Post journalist James McLeod.

McLeod noted that the app tracked his movements so closely that it knew where he lived, worked and vacationed, as well as when he entered certain competing fast-food restaurants. An analysis of months’ worth of data obtained through the Federal Data Protection Act suggested the app tracked him even when it was closed.

Canada’s privacy commissioners found that Tim Hortons violated federal and provincial privacy laws by using his app to collect “very personal” information about his customers without their consent, prompting the company to sue a “mass invasion” of privacy. The investigation revealed that users were misled into believing that their information was only accessed when they were using the app.

“Private companies think so little about our privacy and freedom that they can initiate these activities without thinking for more than a moment,” Therrien said in June.

Tim Hortons will not have to expect penalties in this case. That alone prompted commissioners to call for tougher privacy rules, as only Quebec can levy fines when companies breach privacy laws.

Those who would like more information about the settlement are advised to contact group counsel, LPC Avocats and Consumer Law Group.

With files by Jake Edmiston

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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2023

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