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Money Mart suspends 50% cash-for-gift-card offer

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Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press

Published Thursday, December 4, 2014 3:46PM EST

Last Updated Friday, December 5, 2014 5:49PM EST

TORONTO — Money Mart has agreed to suspend its controversial program offering cash for gift cards at half of their face value after a call from Ontario’s Consumer Services Ministry.

The government issued a release saying the payday loan company “voluntarily suspended” the gift card exchange program, which Money Mart defended earlier Friday as a “convenient” service for its customers.

Consumer Services Minister David Orazietti says his office is looking to see if there needs to be increased regulation around the re-selling of gift cards, something the opposition parties called for Thursday when they demanded the practice be stopped.

Orazietti says the government wants to ensure a high standard of consumer protection.

Ontario’s New Democrats called Money Mart a Grinch for launching the cash-for-gift-cards scheme during the pre-Christmas period, when many charities give their clients the cards.

Money Mart, which has branches across the country, described the service as “value added” in an earlier release Friday, which NDP consumer critic Jagmeet Singh said showed “how horribly misguided” the company really is.

“It’s actually preying on very vulnerable people,” he said. “It may not be actually criminal, but it’s morally criminal.”

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives accused Money Mart of “highway robbery,” and like the NDP, demanded the Liberal government immediately stop the practice.

“It’s a sad indictment of society that we’re allowing it to happen, so the government needs to shut it down right away,” said interim PC Leader Jim Wilson.

Orazietti had warned Thursday that regulating cash-for-gift-card plans was 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 did not respond to questions about how it makes money off the gift cards or if it sells them back to the original retailers.

“I don’t know what their economic model is,” said Singh. “I just know that whatever it is, it’s wrong.”

A statement issued by the New York public relations firm ICR early Friday morning did not directly address accusations that Money Mart was preying on 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.”

Money Mart suspends 50% cash-for-gift-card offer

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