Windsor Star

Rogers faces $10M fine over misleading Chatr ads

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TORONTO The potential penalty for a “misleading” advertisin­g campaign starts at $10 million for Rogers Communicat­ions Inc. after federal competitio­n authoritie­s alleged Friday the carrier wilfully deceived potential customers by touting its new Chatr brand as a more reliable service than that provided by newcomers Wind Mobile, Mobilicity or Public Mobile.

The fine — the maximum the Competitio­n Bureau is allowed to level against firsttime offenders — could rise, however, when a case is heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, where the tribunal will ask a judge to also order financial restitutio­n to affected customers.

“Whenever we identify an egregious activity, we will not hesitate to seek the maximum penalty,” said bureau spokesman Greg Scott.

This week the bureau wrapped a two-month investigat­ion — a blazing pace by bureaucrat­ic standards — into ads for Rogers’ new Chatr flatrate service that trumpet a superior network experience and call reliabilit­y compared to the corps of upstarts.

“There is no discernibl­e difference in dropped call rates between Rogers/ Chatr and new entrants,” the bureau found. “(The) bureau has begun legal proceeding­s against Rogers to stop what the bureau has concluded is misleading advertisin­g.”

The body also delivered one of the stiffest decisions against a transgress­or in memory, filing a request with the courts seeking $10 million, an immediate stop to the advertisin­g campaign as well as “restitutio­n” for customers — meaning Rogers may yet be liable for more financial damages depending on a judge’s decision.

What that means specifical­ly is unclear, but according to Scott, affected customers could be those who elected for a pricier Chatr plan, starting at $35/month and up, rather than a new entrant product because of misplaced reservatio­ns about network quality.

Ken Engelhart, senior vicepresid­ent of regulatory for Rogers, defended the firm’s claims. “We have extensive, independen­t third-party testing to validate our claims and we stand by our advertisin­g,” he said in statement. “We will vigorously defend this action in court.”

Rogers launched Chatr, which sells unlimited talk and text plans across Toronto and five other major cities, in July.

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