Ica under fire for sidelining smokers

Ica under fire for sidelining smokers
The ICA grocery chain may be running afoul of Sweden’s consumer protection laws after a manager in southern Sweden implemented a new policy regarding ICA’s bonus card programme.

“For every krona you spend, ICA or Statoil gives you a 1 percent bonus,” reads ICA’s website.

But contrary to the website’s claim, purchasers of tobacco products at an ICA in Ängelholm will not be able to accumulate bonus awards in the same way as shoppers of other products.

“I don’t think it is right to give bonus points for something which is unhealthy,” the store manager said to the Helsingborgs Dagblad newspaper.

When first contacted about matter, spokesperson Emma Månson did not see any discrepancy between the manger’s new policy and the language on ICA’s website.

“Tobacco products should give a bonus but it is up to each individual store. Some stores have decided not to give bonus points because of health concerns,” she told The Local.

Månson added that, as ICA’s stores operated as manager-owned franchises, managers have the right to make decisions regarding how each individual store operates.

But according to the Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket), since ICA’s corporate parent issues the bonus cards, it sets the terms and conditions for the programme, not the individual stores.

As a result, all ICA stores must have the same policy, according to Swedish law.

“The website is attracting customers by misleading them. ICA is not permitted to publish such information on their website and then say that is up to each individual store, this can be considered illegal,” said Mattias Grundström, a lawyer with the agency.

When confronted with the possibility that the ICA manager may have broken the law in setting the policy, Månson had no direct comment on the matter.

“The bonus card system is currently under discussion,” she said.

Grundström from Konsumentverket couldn’t say whether or not the agency would launch a formal investigation into the matter at this time.

“That depends on how many reports we receive,” he said.