Having trouble redeeming your Air Miles, or feel like there are rewards being kept from you? Well, you’re not alone. This week, JSS Barristers, a Calgary law firm, filed a class action lawsuit against LoyaltyOne, the company that owns and operates the Air Miles rewards program in Canada. We spoke with Andrew Wilson, lead counsel for the lawsuit, and learned some things you need to now if you’re one of the 10 million households in Canada that has an Air Miles card.
1. You don’t have to do anything to join
A class action lawsuit is filed collectively by a large number of people who express the same legal complaint against the same defendant (in this case, Air Miles). The lawsuit was filed at at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta on behalf of all Canadian Air Miles members who had “Dream” reward miles on or after Dec. 28, 2011. In Alberta (where the action is being brought forward), all Air Miles holders are automatically in the suit. “You’d have to opt out if you didn’t want to be included,” says Wilson. Wilson believes it’s likely that the Alberta Court will apply the suit to every province and territory, meaning Air Miles users Canada-wide may get a piece of the pie.
2. Don’t get too excited
A judge has to formally certify the suit as a class action lawsuit before any further action can take place—something that generally takes one to two years, so don’t hold your breath.
3. Don’t expect millions
The ultimate stake in dollar terms for class action suit participants isn’t huge. In fact, most class members have miles/rewards valued at between $200 and $10,000 or so. Still, both parties in the suit will have to agree on the process. “More than 90% of these cases end up resolving in mediation and the damages can be quite creative—goods, cash, or a mix of cash and goods,” says Jay Strosberg, a Windsor-based class action suit lawyer with Sutts, Strosberg LLP. “Or, if Air Miles are reinstated, there could be damages in dollar terms for customer aggravation, waste of time, etc. It’s too early to tell.”
4. Keep monitoring
Air Miles card holders can monitor the proceedings of the suit in the news. At some point there may also be a website set up where Air Miles members can go to check up on how the case is proceeding. “If there’s a resolution to the case, there will be a notice sent to each holder,” says Wilson.
5. Sit back and wait
In the best case scenario, Wilson says the case could take three to four years to resolve—in the worst case, seven to eight years. Still, if you feel you have a unique story to tell about your own Air Miles struggle, then contact JSS Barristers in Calgary. They’d like to hear it. The lesson in all this? “These loyalty programs have to be more vigilant in bringing up these major program changes to customers,” says Strosberg, who says he was aware of the five-year Air Miles deadline as soon as it was announced. This summer he cashed in his own miles for a $500 red KitchenAid mixer that showed up at his doorstep six weeks later. “I got my good, so I’m happy. And my wife is thrilled. So I’m not sure this will be the most sympathetic case. After all, it’s not like you invested in stock shares and lost a lot of money. But in general, companies need to be more proactive. Communication is key when changes are made so companies don’t get into these messes in the first place.”
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