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Tim Hortons says potential lawsuit for Roll Up To Win prize snafu has 'no merit'

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Tim Hortons insists a potential class action lawsuit involving customers who were sent an email by mistake during the company's Roll up to Win contest has "no merit."

Approximately 500,000 customers across Canada received the emails from the coffee giant on Wednesday, erroneously claiming customers had won a boat and a trailer worth more than $68,000, according to court filings by the Montreal-based law firm LPC Avocats.

Over 2,000 social media users joined a Facebook group where many shared their frustration with having been told they received the prize, only to be later told it was sent by mistake, without any compensation.

Tim Hortons apologized for the mistake and asked customers to disregard the content of the email.

LPC Avocats submitted an application for a class action lawsuit with the Superior Court of Quebec on April 19. The lawsuit has yet to be certified as it awaits an authorization hearing to move forward.

The firm alleges the company violated the Consumer Protection Act, which states merchants are bound to statements or advertisements about their services, including the Roll Up To Win contest.

The class action is seeking punitive damages of $10,000 for every customer who received the email and potential other damages, to be determined by a judge.

Tim Hortons says in a statement to CTV News that it will be addressing the matter in court.

"Despite this human error, we firmly believe there is no merit to the lawsuit and we will address this through the court," a Tim Hortons spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

"After the Roll Up To Win contest ended, we sent out a recap email message to give our guests an overview of their play history. Unfortunately, there was a human error that resulted in some guests receiving some incorrect information in this recap message. When we became aware of the error, we quickly sent out an email to guests notifying them of the error and apologizing."

Gilles LeVasseur, a law and business professor at the University of Ottawa, says these contests have exclusion clauses in their rules that make class action lawsuits difficult, but customers could still seek some punitive damages.

"They can do a claim against the company for the damage. But the question is, what kind of damage you could claim?" LeVasseur said Saturday on 580 CFRA's Live! with Andrew Pinsent.

"These types of situations, yes it's frustrating, yes it hurts, but the people did not really lose personally on a given account. They lost in terms of possibilities."

LeVasseur says if the lawsuit moves forward, a judge could offer customers compensation of $500 at most to close the file quickly.

"Sadly the amount that usually is settled, is not very high," he said.

LeVasseur says he would like to see Tim Hortons be more transparent with customers and apologize profusely for the wrongdoing. He suggests the company appear on television or in the media to repair the lost trust of its customers and to fix the reliability of the contest.

"You got to act right away, that’s the first step you have to do. Recognize your faults, act right away and find a solution," he said. "By making people wait like that, they lose faith in the business."

"Right now, Tim Hortons is not doing that."

He adds the company should consider compensation for customers from the error to help recover its brand quickly.

"Marketing right now is a very different concept than we had 10 years ago," he said.

"Social media creates by itself its own marketing strategy and so when the system gets going and it becomes an anti-Tim Hortons movement, you may not lose 50 per cent of your business, but you could lose 10 to 15 per cent of your clients – and that is your business at the end of the day."

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