Rogers ‘vilified’ by advertising charges, court told

Rogers ‘vilified’ by advertising charges, court told

 Friday August 10, 2012 Michael Lewis Business Reporter

Fighting claims that it disparaged rivals and engaged in false and misleading advertising to promote its Chatr discount wireless brand, Rogers Communications Inc. on Friday pivoted to the offensive.
 Kent Thomson, lead lawyer for Rogers in a civil trial spurred by a Competition Bureau complaint, said the Toronto company has been “vilified by direct competitors and the [bureau] commissioner” and is seeking absolute vindication.
 He said the Bureau’s complaint, a response to objections from upstart cellphone companies over the Chatr marketing claim that its service “has fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers,” is based on self serving and uncorroborated assertions.
 Thomson also took aim at the wireless entrants who emerged in Canada after Ottawa’s auction of radio wave spectrum in 2008.
He told the Superior Court civil trial that Wind Mobile’s wireless network was plagued with performance problems after the service was offered in Canadian urban centres starting in 2009.
 Thomson cited a statement from the CEO of new wireless carrier Public Mobile criticizing Wind for its “Swiss cheese” network and what Public called dead zones in its coverage area that triggered performance issues including a rash of dropped calls.
 The Roger’s lawyer said Wind, the first new wireless entrant after the auction, received thousands of customer complaints in its early days — but said Public has had serious network performance problems of its own.
 “This is exactly why Rogers used reliability as a key feature in its promotion of the Chatr service,” he told the court.
 Wind and the other cellphone companies that set up shop to challenge Canada’s big three incumbent wireless companies, Rogers, Bell and Telus, has argued that any start-up performance issues would be quickly ironed out.
The Competition Bureau in its formal complaint over the Chatr ads charges that the dropped call claim has not been properly substantiated by Rogers. It has also referred to statements from the entrants including Wind arguing that they have lost customers due to what they call misleading reliability claims by Chatr.
 After filing a complaint with the Competition Bureau in the fall of 2010 Wind chairman Anthony Lacavera said in a speech that Chatr’s dropped call boast could not possibly be substantiated.
 “There is absolutely no solid or objective technical basis for Chatr’s claim to have more network reliability and fewer dropped calls than Wind,” Lacavera said.
“The truth is that Rogers doesn’t have access to our network stats and we don’t have access to theirs, which makes it impossible to accurately compare networks.”
 Rogers in its opening submission said it obtained data on rivals’ dropped call rates through so-called drive testing, a procedure that involves testing competitors’ devices in a specially equipped vehicle. Thomson said the test is widely accepted across the global wireless industry.
 But the Competition Bureau calls it inadequate, charging that the dropped call comparison could only be supported by data gleaned from operator’s networks.
 If it is found guilty of false and misleading advertising under the Competition Act Rogers faces sanctions including a $10 million administrative penalty.
The trial in Toronto before Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco is expected to continue for several weeks.
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