12/06/2013 11:23 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 05:59 EST

Grocer fights B.C. pharmacists' ban on loyalty programs

Two of the province's largest grocery store chains are fighting the B.C. College of Pharmacists over a ban on incentive programs.

In a petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Dec. 5, Sobeys — the company that owns Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods — is seeking to overturn the ban, which aims to prevent stores from tying the provision of medicine to rewards, including money and loyalty schemes.

Sobeys lawyer Peter Gall says the new rules, which came into effect this week, are anti-competitive and not in the interest of British Columbians.

“The public is in favour of price competition, discounts, loyalty programs — anything that saves them money," says Gall.

In fact, Sobeys claims in its petition that research shows loyalty programs actually make for better care by encouraging patients to stay with the same pharmacist.

The college was unavailable for comment.

Sobeys’ petition is set to be heard next week. In the meantime, Safeway and Thrifty say they've stopped providing loyalty points on prescriptions.