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Stores lose skirmish over pharmacy rewards

VANCOUVER - The chief justice of British Columbia's Supreme Court has refused to issue an interim injunction so two grocery chains can continue to offer rewards points to their pharmacy customers.

The college that regulates pharmacists in B.C. began enforcing a bylaw that prohibited incentives programs on Dec. 2, 2013.

Sobeys West Inc. and Jace Holdings Ltd., which operate Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods stores, is challenging the bylaw in court at the end of this month, but on Dec. 20 they applied for an interim injunction.

In a ruling posted online Friday, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson says the stores tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a delay to the bylaw and must now live with their decision until the case has been heard.

He says the majority of the provinces 5,200 pharmacists and 1,200 pharmacies met the bylaw's deadline, and to do otherwise would potentially affect them and their customers.

Hinkson says he doesn't want to be critical of the grocery stores but the current situation shouldn't come as a "complete surprise."

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