Rogers faces $10M fine over misleading Chatr ads
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.