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Privacy Commissioner upholds retailer’s return policy
June 3, 2005

In the first decision issued under the Personal Information Protection Act, BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has upheld a Canadian Tire store’s practice of collecting personal information from customers returning goods.

The decision dealt with a complaint made by a customer who had returned an item that was purchased a few days earlier. She provided a sales receipt, but declined the clerk’s request for her name, address and telephone number. The store asserted that the collection of some customer information was necessary to prevent fraudulent merchandise returns.

The Commissioner was satisfied that the fraudulent return of stolen goods was a serious problem, and that the collection and use of identifying personal information was an important feature of the store’s overall loss-reduction strategy. He noted that the information collected was limited, publicly available and relatively non-sensitive in nature. The organization did not disclose the information to anyone else, except to the police for fraud or theft investigations.

However, the Commissioner determined that the store could not require customers to provide personal information for the purpose of conducting customer satisfaction surveys. He also found that the store could not retain the personal information indefinitely, and required it to develop a records retention policy.

K.E. Gostlin Enterprises Limited, [2005] B.C.I.P.C.D. No. 18., Order P05-01, May 25, 2005.