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Passengers, advocates cry foul on Air Canada compensation

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MONTREAL — Passengers and advocates say Air Canada is giving them the runaround on refunds, compensation and reasons cited for flight delays and cancellations — including a case of harsh weather cited two weeks before it struck.

Despite thousands of scrapped flights and late arrivals, customers are struggling to file successful complaints or learn the nuances of complex regulations amid the overwhelming surge in summer travel.

The country’s largest carrier informed some passengers their flight to Lisbon would be delayed due to “bad weather,” 12 days before it was even slated to leave Montreal on July 17.

Another traveller recently received a $60 “eCoupon” due to a days-long baggage delay rather than the direct refund she’s entitled to under both federal rules and Air Canada’s passenger-carrier contract.

“It’d be great if I could get that money back rather than a coupon. Especially since I am still without my bag and fronting interim expenses,” said Air Canada Rouge passenger Leanna Durdle.

On Tuesday the airline cancelled a flight from Nashville to Toronto citing a “technical issue.” But data on tracking service Flightradar24 shows the same plane that was scheduled to fly into Nashville for the trip instead took off for Boston an hour after the original departure time, despite the stated mechanical problem.

Liam Walshe, a paralegal who advocates for consumer protection, called the reasons cited “questionable” and “suspect.” Mechanical malfunctions do not qualify as within the carrier’s control and thus exempt it from having to compensate customers, he noted.

“I was pretty shocked with what I was seeing,” he said.

“How would they say it’s for maintenance and then an hour later the aircraft flies to Boston instead? Why wouldn’t they just delay the Nashville flight slightly?”

Walshe said that taken together, the myriad instances of “technical” or “maintenance” issues along with travel vouchers rather than reimbursement create an appearance of trying to avoid “having to pay out.”

“People have been submitting claims and they’ve been getting denied,” he said. “You’ll see all kinds of people saying that there’s inconsistent reasons.”

Air Canada said in an email the weather explanation on the Lisbon flight was “an incorrect notification” that has since been revised.

“Air Canada fully appreciates the disappointment and inconvenience schedule changes cause customers, and does its utmost to mitigate these regrettable situations,” the airline said in a statement.

It notes travellers can request a refund in the original form of payment, and says it will pay additional compensation where “due” under the passenger rights charter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2022.

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Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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Home Depot gave personal data to Meta without valid customer consent: watchdog

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Ottawa – Retailer Home Depot shared details from electronic receipts with Meta, which owns the social media platform Facebook, without the knowledge or consent of customers, the federal privacy watchdog has found.

In a report released Thursday, privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne said the data included encoded email addresses and in-store purchase information.

The commissioner’s investigation discovered that the information sent to Meta was used to see whether a customer had a Facebook account.

If they did have an account, Meta compared what the customer bought at Home Depot to advertisements sent over the platform to measure and report on the effectiveness of the ads.

Meta was also able to use the customer information for its own business purposes, including user profiling and targeted advertising unrelated to Home Depot, the commissioner found.

It is unlikely that Home Depot customers would have expected their personal information to be shared with a social media platform simply because they opted for an electronic receipt, Dufresne said in a statement.

He reminded companies that they must obtain valid consent at the point of sale to engage in this type of activity.

“As businesses increasingly look to deliver services electronically, they must carefully consider any consequential uses of personal information, which may require additional consent.”

Details of a person’s in-store purchases might not have been sensitive in the context of the home-improvement retailer, but they could be in other cases, revealing information about an individual’s health or sexuality, he added.

At a news conference, Dufresne suggested the Home Depot matter was not an isolated case.

“Our investigation focused on one organization, one situation, but our sense is that these tools are widely used. And this is why the message today is that all organizations should review their practices.”

Home Depot told the privacy commissioner it relied on implied consent and that its privacy statement, available through its website and in print upon request at retail outlets, adequately explained the company’s use of information. The retailer also cited Facebook’s privacy statement.

The commissioner rejected Home Depot’s argument, saying the privacy statements were not readily available to customers at the checkout counter and shoppers would have no reason to seek them out.

“The explanations provided in its policies were ultimately insufficient to support meaningful consent,” Dufresne’s statement said.

He recommended that Home Depot stop disclosing the personal information of customers who request an electronic receipt to Meta until it is able to put in place measures to ensure valid consent.

Home Depot fully co-operated with the investigation, agreed to implement the recommendations and stopped sharing customer information with Meta in October, the commissioner said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.

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Canada donating four Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine

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Ottawa – Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada will send four of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks.”

Anand announced the move this afternoon, making Canada the latest country to promise the heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Canada is also providing trainers, spare parts and ammunition, while Anand left open the possibility of sending more Leopards in the future.

Ukraine has implored Western allies to send such weapons for weeks as its forces struggle to make gains against Russia.

But Canada was unable to respond until Germany agreed on Wednesday that countries could re-export their Leopards.

The Leopards that Canada is donating are among the 112 currently owned by the Canadian Army, which includes 82 designed specifically for combat.

Retired military officers had warned that any donation would have an impact on the Army and will need to be replaced, given that the fleet is already stretched thin.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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