12/04/2014 02:29 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST

Money Mart Defends Buying Gift Cards For Half Of Face Value

TORONTO - Money Mart is defending its practice of exchanging cash for gift cards at half of their face value as a "convenient" service.

The payday loan company hired a New York public relations firm to respond after Ontario's New Democrats called Money Mart a Grinch for launching the cash-for-gift-cards scheme.

A statement it released from the company says "Money Mart believes it is offering customers a convenient, value-added product though this service." The payday loan company has branches across the country and says the service is available at select outlets.

Many charities give clients gift cards during the Christmas season, and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Money Mart is "greedily" grabbing half of the money meant for very vulnerable people.

The provincial Progressive Conservatives accused Money Mart of "highway robbery," and like the NDP, demanded the Liberal government immediately stop the practice.

Consumer Minister David Orazietti says he'll look at regulating cash-for-gift-card plans, but calls it a tough issue because people trading something they own for less than face value may not be any of the government's business.

Money Mart said Friday that it would be up to the American public relations firm ICR to respond to questions about it makes money off the gift cards or if it sells them back to the original retailers.

The statement issued by ICR early Friday morning did not directly address Thursday's accusations from politicians that Money Mart was preying on the most vulnerable members of society.

"Money Mart, like other retailers, is offering a service under which it purchases merchant gift cards from customers who don't want to purchase the products offered by the gift card merchant," said the statement.

"The service... includes gift cards from a wide variety of merchants, including hardware and sporting goods stores, fast food and apparel outlets."

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