Tim Hortons app users get free beverage and baked good in settlement

Class action alleged the coffee chain’s mobile app breached users’ privacy

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

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The lawsuit had alleged the restaurant chain’s app breached users’ privacy without adequate notice and consent despite how Tim Hortons represented its collection of geolocation data. In an email, Tim Hortons notified Canadian residents who had used the app between April 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020, and had their geolocation data collected at least once, of the settlement’s approval.

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Under the settlement, eligible users have been given two credits, which will expire 24 months after being issued, to redeem for one free hot beverage and one free baked good from participating locations. Those who received the notice are automatically included in the settlement and can no longer opt out or object, the coffee chain said.

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

Tim Hortons spokesperson Michael Oliveira said in an email statement that eligible app users were sent the email on Feb. 1 and those who have not received the email, but believe they should have, can contact the company’s digital support team.

The company agreed to the settlement without any admission of liability. The allegations have not been proven in court and are contested by the defendants.

RBI said it has already taken measures to permanently delete any geolocation information collected from app users that was in its possession. It said its third-party vendor, Radar Labs Inc., has also been instructed to do the same.

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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 founded the app had been tracking his movements so closely that it knew where he lived, worked and vacationed, as well as when he walked into certain competing fast-food restaurants. An analysis of months’ worth of data obtained through federal privacy law suggested the app was tracking him even when it was closed.

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The Canadian privacy watchdogs found that Tim Hortons violated federal and provincial privacy laws by using its app to collect “highly personal” information about its customers without their consent, calling out the company for a “mass invasion” of privacy. The investigation found that users were misled into thinking their information was only being accessed when they used the app.

“Private companies think so little of our privacy and freedom that they can initiate these activities without giving it more than a moment’s thought,” Therrien said in June.

Tim Hortons won’t face any penalties in the case. That alone prompted the commissioners to call for tougher privacy regulations since only Quebec has the ability to impose fines when companies break privacy laws.

Those looking to obtain more information about the settlement are advised to contact class counsel LPC Avocates and Consumer Law Group.

With files from Jake Edmiston

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