bpas warned for "harassment" of Boots staff                                                                       

1 September 2017

Boots has now given into pressure to lower the price of the morning-after pill.

Pharmacy chain Boots sent a legal warning to bpas after the abortion provider helped supporters send "a torrent of personal abuse" to its staff.

It has emerged that Boots sent two legal warnings to bpas (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) concerning their campaign to force the chain to lower the price of the morning-after pill. 

Orchestrated campaign

Bpas encouraged supporters to boycott Boots after it initially refused to follow other retailers in slashing the price of the pill, which has an abortifacient mechanism. Boots said in a reply to bpas that "we would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use" by lowering the price of the product. However, under pressure from bpas and a group of mostly Labour MPs, the company quickly apologised and committed to cut the cost, which it has now done. 

"Personal abuse"

As part of the campaign, bpas set up a web form which could be used to contact five senior Boots executives. In a letter sent at the start of August by well-known celebrity law firm Schillings, the chain says the campaign caused "immense personal distress" to their employees, and the use of the email feature constituted the "facilitation and tacit encouragement of personal abuse" which was "flagrantly unreasonable".

Examples given of abusive messages sent through the form include one employee being described as a "vile, nasty, strange excuse of a half man", and another saying "You really are a vile, intensely peculiar sack of corporate puss."

No remorse

Boots has now issued another legal warning, after bpas put out a press release giving details of the first warning. Bpas has denied any wrong-doing, saying it was "perfectly reasonable for BPAS to provide the names of executives for the public to write to", because the company had "previously ignored messages sent to customer services". It also claimed that messages sent through the form were "overwhelmingly polite and thoughtfully expressed". 

The email form is currently still available on the website and lists Ian Blythe, the firm's head of corporate social responsibility, as a possible recipient. The other four have been removed.

Protecting employees

A spokesman for Boots said: "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".

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