Governments love to bring in new laws as of January 1st. Among the numerous offerings, the Ontario Government (do you smell an election year coming up) will be finally implementing part of a previous law, Protecting Rewards Points Act (Consumer Protection Amendment), 2016 . That law prohibited the expiration of rewards points in consumer loyalty programs. However, retailers and consumers have been waiting for the publication of the associated Regulation providing more details. The Regulation, known as Ontario Regulation 388/17, will come into force on January 1st.
The highlights are as follows:
1. The definition of a “reward point”. The Regulation clarifies the definition of a “reward point” found in the Act. A “reward point” must: (i) be earned across multiple transactions; (ii) be accumulated by the consumer before being able to be exchanged for money, goods or services; and (iii) may be described as points, dollars spent or any other unit or similar term. The Act will not apply to rewards points that are not earned over multiple transactions (e.g. a one time gift with purchase would not be caught by the Act).
2. Exception for rewards programs offering a specific good. The Regulation excludes from the definition of a “reward point” offers that propose to provide a consumer with one specific good, service or one set of goods and services after the consumer achieves a certain amount of progress, if the goods or services are identified at the outset of the offer and they are not a gift card, voucher or similar item (e.g. coffee stamp cards will not be caught by the Act).
3. Exception for low-value rewards. The Regulation provides that the Act will not apply to rewards programs under which rewards points are provided if one good, one service or a single set of goods or services that the consumer may receive in exchange for redeeming the points has a value less than $50.00.
4. Purchase requirement. The Regulation will not apply in situations in which the consumer is not required to purchase goods or services to earn rewards, either upon joining the rewards program or during the entire term of the rewards program. However, where the consumer has entered into at least one other agreement with the same party operating the rewards program that does require purchase of goods or services to earn rewards points, the Act will apply.
5. Clarification on time alone expiry. The expiry of a reward point due to the passage of time alone means that the point expires based solely on when a certain point in time is reached or when a certain amount of time has elapsed. Accordingly, rewards points can expire if conditions other than the passage of time trigger expiration.
6. Points allowed to expire for inactivity. The prohibition on expiration of rewards points in the Act does not apply to loyalty programs where the points expire if a consumer has not earned or redeemed points during a specified period of time.
Michael Cobb is a lawyer at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice. For more articles, visit the Library page at www.cobbjones.ca.