Rogers cites free speech in Chatr ad claim dispute

Rogers is standing by its advertising claim that the discount Chatr wireless brand is more reliable, adding that attempts to alter its ad campaign amount to a violation of its right to free expression.
Rogers, headed up by CEO Nadir Mohammed, launched their discount Chatr wireless line in 2010.

Rogers is standing by its advertising claim that the discount Chatr wireless brand is more reliable, adding that attempts to alter its ad campaign amount to a violation of its right to free expression.

Rogers Communications Inc. will be in a Toronto courtroom today, defending itself against allegations by Canada's Competition Bureau.

In a 2010 national advertising campaign, Chatr claimed its cellular service is better than that of other discount players because it is more reliable and less prone to dropped calls.

After what it called "an extensive review of technical data," the bureau found no discernible difference in dropped-call rates between Rogers/Chatr and new entrants, and so it began legal proceedings against Rogers later that year.

That civil trial is set to proceed on Wednesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

According the Postmedia and other news agencies, Rogers will argue that the court should strike down a section in Canada's Competition Act that requires companies to undergo "adequate and proper" tests of a product’s performance before making advertising claims about it.

According to published reports, the company will argue that requirement violates the right to freedom of expression contained in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Asked for comment, Rogers spokeswoman Patricia Trott said the company does indeed plan to defend itself at least in part along constitutional lines.

To defend accuracy of claims

"The constitutional issue is not the centre of the case," she said. "It's an argument we've brought forward around two very narrow and specific parts of the act that the bureau used in bringing the case against us."

Trott said the communications company will also defend the accuracy of its claims.

"We have done extensive third party tests that have substantiated our claims," she said. "We're going to provide a number of experts. "We are confident that the claims we have made are true and backed up by testing."

For its part, the bureau says it takes advertising rules very seriously.

"New entrants attempting to gain a foothold in the market should not be discredited by misleading claims made by their competitors," Competition Bureau commissioner Melanie Aitken said in a statement.

The bureau has been trying to get Rogers to pay restitution to customers along with a $10 million administrative penalty, and issue a corrective notice informing the general public of those actions. According to the bureau, Rogers pulled the ad within a month of the bureau filing its court action.

"We take misleading advertising very seriously," Aitken said. "Consumers deserve accurate information, so they can make purchasing decisions with confidence."


  • This story has been edited from an earlier version to clarify that the Competition Bureau is seeking a $10 million administrative monetary penalty, which is a civil remedy, rather than a fine, which is criminal punishment, and to clarify that the ad in question is no longer running.
    Aug 08, 2012 5:56 PM ET