PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 ― After being accused of violating customer privacy, Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons is proposing an unusual settlement: free coffee and baked goods.
The company has been slapped with a group of class action lawsuits alleging that it had illegally gathered customers’ geolocation data through its app from 2019 to 2020.
Customers began receiving emails from Tim Hortons regarding settlement on Friday (July 29), with some sharing screenshots of its contents on Twitter.
The email states that affected customers were entitled to "a free hot beverage and a free baked good” valued at C$6.19 (RM21) and C$2.39 (RM8.28) respectively.
The email adds that the company will "permanently delete any geolocation information about group members”.
In its emailed statement to Vice on Saturday (July 30), Tim Hortons said it was "pleased to have reached a proposed settlement, subject to Court approval”.
"It’s important to emphasise that the allegations raised in the class actions were not proven in court and the settlement is not an admission of any wrongdoing,” the company added.
On June 1, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and several other provincial agencies released a report on their investigation of Tim Hortons’ mobile app.
Investigation w/ @CAI_Quebec, @BCInfoPrivacy, @ABoipc: People who downloaded the Tim Hortons app had their movements tracked and recorded every few minutes of every day, even when their app was not open, in violation of Canadian privacy laws. https://t.co/uPRr9i8Zid pic.twitter.com/Cy2NWf4SnU
— OPC (@PrivacyPrivee) June 1, 2022
The investigation found that the app recorded granular information of where they lived, worked, and travelled "every few minutes".
Using a third party service called Radar, the app managed to collect location data even when it was closed.
The investigation was sparked by a 2020 report by journalist James McLeod for the Financial Post.
"According to the data, Tim Hortons had recorded my longitude and latitude coordinates more than 2,700 times in less than five months, and not just when I was using the app,” McLeod wrote in his article then.
"There were readings taken at all hours of the day and night, and RBI (Restaurant Brands International Inc, the owner of Tim Hortons) kept tabs on me every time the app thought I was visiting one of its competitors.”