TORONTO — Rogers Communications Inc.'s move to credit its customers with the equivalent of five days of service following the massive outage that crippled its network last week is "wholly inadequate," a legal expert said.
"Five days is predicated on the possible belief that damage to individuals and small and medium-sized businesses can be quantified solely on the basis of a portion of a monthly fee," Richard Leblanc, a York University governance, law and ethics professor, said in an interview Wednesday.
Payments could not occur, sales were missed, meetings were missed, work could not be done, and businesses could not operate fully, so damages would be broader than that, Leblanc explained.
Rogers made the announcement via a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday saying that it was "a first step" in earning back its customers' trust.
"They're keeping the door open to do more and showing goodwill as an initial first step, but it's a minimum," Leblanc said.
In the statement, Rogers said it was listening to its customers from across the country and recognized how significant the impacts of the outage were for them.
Rogers wireless and internet customers were left without service in the outage that began early Friday morning and led to widespread disruptions. The outage affected 911 services as well as financial networks and other critical services.
The company said the disruption that shut down its mobile and internet services across much of the country came after a maintenance update in its core network, which caused some of its routers to malfunction.
As the next step, Leblanc believes Rogers should look to tailor its compensation strategy to better fit individual, household and business customers because "the damages are not equal" across the board.
Rogers is already facing a class-action lawsuit filed Monday by Montreal-based LPC Avocat Inc. on behalf of customers with a contract with Rogers, Fido Mobile or Chatr Mobile who didn't receive services on Friday or Saturday, as well as "persons in Quebec who could not operate with their own device or make transactions because of the outage" during that period.
Yuka Sai, a lawyer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) said consumers deserve a say in what constitutes fair compensation when mass outages occur.
PIAC has requested the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) open a public consultation on how customers should be treated by telecom companies in the event of a service outage.
"This public hearing should set industry-wide rules on baseline emergency planning, notification and refund requirements, and other protections for both retail and wholesale-based customers," Sai said.
Jasmin Guénette, vice-president of National Affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said for small and medium-sized businesses, the five-day reimbursement is "likely to be insufficient to cover the revenue lost."
Rogers should be compensating businesses with a full month of free service, he added.
On Tuesday, the CRTC asked Rogers to provide a detailed explanation for the service outage by July 22, including why and how it occurred and what measures it is putting in place to prevent it from happening again.
Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met with Rogers chief executive Tony Staffieri and the heads of several other telecom providers on Monday and directed them to come up with a crisis plan, including agreements on emergency roaming, a "mutual assistance" framework during outages and a communication protocol to "better inform the public and authorities during telecommunications emergencies."
Staffieri issued an updated apology Wednesday afternoon.
"Our network outage last Friday was unacceptable. Simply put, we failed on our promise to be Canada’s most reliable network," he wrote on the company's website.
The CEO said the company has "to make things right."
"You have my personal commitment that Rogers will make every change and investment needed to help ensure that it will not happen again."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.
Companies in this story: (TSX:RCI.B)
Adena Ali, The Canadian Press