Boots issues BPAS with legal warning over emergency contraception campaign

01 Sep 2017 News

The high-street pharmacy Boots has issued the British Pregnancy Advisory Service with a legal warning over its campaign for affordable emergency contraception, which it says is encouraging personal abuse of its employees.

BPAS has said that the pharmacist is trying to stop its campaign to get Boots to offer emergency contraceptive at a lower price, but Boots has said that it is not trying to stifle debate and instead just stop abuse aimed at individual employees.

The charity set up a campaign to encourage supporters to directly email employees of Boots to complain against the lack of an affordable option for emergency contraceptive, which is available at other pharmacies. The application on its website allows supporters to email senior executives at Boots on their direct email addresses. Boots has said some of the emails received by these individuals has been “abusive”.

The argument follows an initial complaint by the charity over pricing made in July after the charity revealed that Boots did not sell a lower priced emergency contraceptive.

Boots responded by saying it was keeping the price high to prevent “inappropriate use” by women and to prevent complaints by those opposed to women using emergency contraception. Boots has since apologised for this statement. The statement recieved a backlash from the charity. MPs and by many members of the public.

Boots has also now committed to selling the drug for the lower price of £15.99 following a roll out to 38 stores 4 weeks ago. It said that the drug should be available in all its stores by October 2017 at that lower price.

‘We welcome the debate’

In a statement, a spokesperson from Boots said of the letter sent by its lawyers to BPAS: “As a responsible employer, we actively seek to protect our colleagues from abuse and harassment. In our legal letter to BPAS we made it very clear that we welcome the debate on the provision of EHC, and respect their right to raise this issue with us. 

“We asked them simply to remove personal email details from their campaign widget and to agree not to encourage personal abuse of our people.  We provided examples of where our employees have received abuse by email and social media in response to BPAS’s campaign.

“BPAS have not yet agreed to do this and we will continue to ask that they agree to our simple request, which was made only to protect the interests of our employees.  We hope to receive a constructive response from BPAS, and do not wish to comment further at this time.”

'Boots has misrepresented messages'

BPAS wrote in a statement that in the letter, Boots accuses BPAS of the “facilitation and tacit encouragement of personal abuse” that “caused immense personal distress” to senior Boots executives.

It said: “The letter demands BPAS ceases their campaign in its current form. Thousands of members of the public contacted Boots via the BPAS campaign: in the letter, Boots described emails and comments on social media as a “torrent of personal abuse” against their employees, yet failed to provide any evidence of abuse sent through the campaign.

“In fact Boots comprehensively misrepresented messages from members of the public sent through the BPAS campaign, which included women who needed to use EC in a range of circumstances, from being the victim of sexual assault to having missed a pill, as well as pharmacists, GPs, and other healthcare professionals.”

Boots has said that the statements put out by BPAS misrepresents its actions, and said that the claim that the pharmacists demanded it cease the campaign in its current form was not true, as was the claim that it had misrepresented emails. It said they had only asked them to remove the email addresses of individual employees.

An extract of the letter which was shared by Boots said that it accepts that the issue of contraception is a matter of public interest.

It said: “For the avoidance of doubt, Boots accepts that the issue of access to contraception is a matter of public interest. Boots takes no issue with you directing concerned individuals to write to Boots’ customer services department with concerns about its pricing of emergency contraception. Our client does not seek to stifle public debate about this issue or to undermine lawful campaigning. We seek only to prevent any further abuse of our client’s employees.”


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