Drinking in …. Privacy?

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) regulates the sale of alcohol products in Ontario. Fans of wine not available on the shelves of the LCBO’s outlets may form wine clubs that order particular wines through the LCBO. Until recently, the LCBO collected the names and addresses of all the members of the clubs placing these orders.

Acting on a complaint by a manager/member of such a club, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario recently ordered that the LCBO stop collecting this personal information. In response, the LCBO stopped filling orders from the wine clubs.

According to the CBC story, a spokesperson for the LCBO said the LCBO asked for club members’ personal information to prevent illegal re-sale, and to contact consumers in case of a recall.

But the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled the LCBO was only able to provide “anecdotal or hypothetical evidence” to support its position and that the collection of the personal information was not necessary.

Naturally a number of wine lovers (and drinkers) are not pleased to have their supply dry up. One club recently circulated this note to its members:

We have contacted the senior representatives at LCBO Private Ordering and have requested that they confirm the LCBO’s action and to let us know how we can to process our wine club orders (including the many we have recently received but have not placed with the LCBO). We are awaiting their reply.

In the interim, please let your local MPP know your feelings on the issue and why not drop Bob Peter, President and Chief Executive Officer of the LCBO a line.

No matter what, please keep those orders flowing. Working with our partners at the LCBO, we’ll find a way to get them processed.

Where should the line be drawn between a regulator’s duty to regulate and a drinker’s right to privacy?

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Comments

  1. Three thoughts:

    1. The LCBO has a weird role as both the regulator and the retailer. I’m not sure what to make of that other than they’re in a weird conflict of interest.

    2. If you’re an Ontarian of a certain age, you’ll remember when self-serve liquor stores were considered revolutionary and scandalous. When liquor was requisitioned from a sour-faced civil servant who handed bottles over the counter in brown paper bags and disapproving looks.

    3. I’m so baffled by the idea that a government agency outside the USSR would keep track of its citizens drinking habits that I don’t even know how to talk about ‘balancing’ regulation vs. privacy.

  2. @mike_2 I suspect they’re interested not in citizens’ drinking habits but in their marketing propensities. It’s all about money now. And, as you may know, the LCBO is far from unique in this liquor-control business. As well as the boards in other provinces, there are 17 or eighteen states in the US that maintain the monopoly. Not sure how they handle the group wine / booze purchase thing, though. I’d be willing to guess that some at least want to follow the bottles out the door.