CSPI Threatens to Sue Safeway for Not Using loyalty Data for Recall Warnings

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CSPI Threatens to Sue Safeway for Not Using loyalty Data for Recall Warnings

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) yesterday notified Safeway that it would file a lawsuit against the grocery chain if it fails to adopt a policy to notify Club Card members who purchased contaminated food subject to recalls.

According to the Washington-based nonprofit health advocacy group, focuses on nutrition, food safety, and pro-health alcohol policies, even though Safeway collects phone numbers and e-mail addresses from its Club Card members, it won’t use that data to contact people who bought contaminated food.

“It shocks the conscience that a major retailer would sit on its hands, even though it has easy access to the e-mails, addresses and phone numbers of those who have purchased food that might be contaminated,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. “Perhaps Safeway saves a few pennies by remaining silent. But why would you knowingly risk letting your customers fall ill or, worse, die?”

CSPI said that many retailers use customer contact information generated by their bonus card programs to notify consumers when they’ve purchased recalled food, via letters and automated phone calls.

Unless Safeway makes a commitment to notify consumers of Class 1 recalls — those recalls of products “that predictably could cause serious health problems or death” — CSPI will file a lawsuit aimed at compelling the company to do so, the group said in a letter to Safeway chairman and CEO Steven A. Burd.

In the letter, which can be viewed at http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/safewayletter.pdf, CSPI said that Safeway’s failure to notify consumers that they’ve bought potentially dangerous products violates state consumer protection laws in Texas, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and California.

According to the privacy policy on Safeway’s Web site, Club Card data “may be used to help make Safeway’s products, services, and programs more useful to its customers.” And, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company reserves the right to “disclose personal information to our related companies and third parties.”

Inquiries to Safeway weren’t answered by presstime.