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The cancellation decision comes days before the Ontario legislature was set to consider Liberal MPP Arthur Potts’ private member’s bill, which would have made expiry dates, such as the one for Air Miles, illegal.
Both Air Miles and LoyaltyOne, the company that owns the program, refused the Star’s request for an interview.
LoyaltyOne said in a statement that it believes cancelling the policy will lead to governments and industry members having more meaningful conversations that can help such loyalty programs remain viable across Canada.
“There is uncertainty with provincial governments proposing or considering legislation across Canada, so we have decided to cancel the expiry policy so that all collectors, regardless of location, can be confident that their balances will be protected,” LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson said in a statement.
When Potts’ bill was first raised, Air Miles opposed it, saying that forcing the company to cancel its expiry date plan would “trigger negative implications, such as immediate and long-term additional loyalty program costs, which will ultimately affect consumers who use those loyalty points.”
Roseman said she thinks the looming spectre of Potts’ bill being passed pushed the company to act.
“That was the final straw,” she said.
While public pressure has been mounting against the company for months over the issue, Roseman said it was likely the back-channel frustration from Air Miles partners that ultimately helped force the company’s hand.
“It’s not that (points collectors) were so much unhappy with Air Miles, but they were angry with the retailers,” Roseman said.
“Their partners’ brands were also being dragged down by this as well,” she said.
Garchteine said he has only 3,187 Air Miles on his account. He was never a big collector, but he would use his small pot to pay for tickets to the movies with his kids and other small treats. When he learned his points were going to expire, he figured he should cash them in.
When he called to ask what had happened, he says he was told the items were shipped to the wrong address, then sent back to the warehouse. After that, Garchteine said he was told the items were out of stock.
Finally, his miles were credited back to his account, but he’s still upset that rule changes switched his points from Air Miles Cash, which he could have used for more movie tickets and time with his kids, to Air Miles Dream rewards, which have to be used for things such as travel and merchandise.
“I felt duped,” he said. “I thought I would always be able to use them. They duped a lot of people.”
While the company has walked away from its plan to cancel unused Air Miles after a certain date, it can still cancel accounts and erase miles if a customer’s account is inactive for more than two years, Roseman said.
“If you’re not an active member, they can take your points away,” she said.
“Most people hope to use the points well down the road to travel around the world. Then, when they finally get to the point where they’re ready to take their trip, the company says, ‘Oh, your points are gone.’ So that can still happen,” she said.