Card Readers Draw Complaint 

Retailers’ use of fixed devices faces challenge by handicapped groups 
By ALLISON LAMPERT, The GazetteFebruary 19, 2010  

Quebec associations for the handicapped are challenging retailers’ use of immovable debit-card readers.

They say the practice of attaching bank-card readers to store checkout counters discriminates against certain handicapped customers – such as those in wheelchairs – who can’t easily reach the counter.

The Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec is campaigning to bring a group complaint on debit-card readers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission in May.

Their efforts are pitting the rights of thousands of handicapped Quebecers against retailers’ security and cost concerns.

Last year, Quebec police urged retailers – especially dépanneurs, restaurants and gas stations – to replace movable debit-card readers, which were being
unhooked and stolen. Criminals were using the devices to access bank-card data and customers’ PIN numbers.

Julie Weber, an organizer for the handicapped, acknowledged the need for retailers to protect their clients from theft, but said they must also accommodate their handicapped customers.

Retailers now have the option of using immovable readers that are attached to the counter in a sleeve, but can be removed with a key for use by handicapped clients.

“We want them (handicapped customers) to have the same rights as everyone else,” Weber said.

In December, a Montrealer brought a similar complaint to the Human Rights Commission against Pharmaprix and parent company Shoppers Drug Mart Corp.

The complaint, filed by Linda Gauthier, 53, has not been heard by the commission.

A spokesperson for Ontario-based Shoppers couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

Gauthier, who uses a wheelchair after losing the use of her legs to multiple sclerosis, said the immovable readers make it very difficult for her to pay
by debit card.

During the incident that provoked her complaint, Gauthier said the only way she could use the reader was by punching in her PIN number in front of other
customers.

“It’s discrimination. My money is as good as anyone else’s,” the former amateur ballroom dancer turned activist said. “We aren’t second-class citizens.”

A retired bank customer service agent, Gauthier said some retailers are making an effort to be more accessible to the handicapped. Gauthier said she has approached Dollarama LP and accessories retailer Ardène Holdings Inc. with some success.

In Gauthier’s Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, a Jean Coutu drugstore offers accessible bank card readers at all of its eight cash registers.

Valérie Marcouiller, pharmacist owner of the store on Mount Royal St. E., said converting to the immovable bank-card readers that unlock with a key wasn’t prohibitively expensive.

“It’s a small gesture that doesn’t take that much effort to do,” Marcouiller said.

alampert@thegazette.canwest.com

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