Rogers outage raises questions about compensation and competition as service comes back to life

As everything from debit cards to 911 services came back to life a day after a nationwide outage at Rogers, fury continued to mount at the company as CEO Tony Staffieri finally threw some light on what went wrong.

In a statement Saturday afternoon, Staffieri blamed “a network system failure following a maintenance update” for one of the worst telecommunications outages the country has ever seen.

“We let you down yesterday. He has my personal commitment that we can and will do better,” Staffieri said.

That wasn’t good enough for advocates for consumers, small businesses and ordinary Canadians, who continued to express their frustration over the outage, both on social media and in official complaints to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. , the country’s telecommunications regulator.

The Public Interest Advocacy Center, in an open letter to CRTC Secretary General Claude Doucet, said the CRTC should immediately launch an investigation into the Rogers outage and should also take a closer look at all communications providers. from the country.

“We request that the Commission … (examine) whether all telecommunications service providers (TSPs) in Canada should be required to comply with baseline emergency planning, reimbursement, notification and transparency requirements, and other protections when consumer, interconnection, wholesale and other requirements as conditions. to operate in Canada,” PIAC Executive Director John Lawford wrote in the letter.

Patricia Valladao, a spokeswoman for the CRTC, said the telecommunications regulator is in contact with Rogers.

“Right now our focus is on the outage and recovering from it, when it’s over we will take all necessary steps to examine what happened and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again,” he said.

Richard Leblanc, a professor of governance, law and ethics at the University of York, said the outage makes it clear that the federal government cannot simply trust telcos to do the right thing.

“I think it is time for regulators, and this includes Industry Canada, the CRTC and the Competition Tribunal, to start insisting on adequate, robust and independently audited internal controls, so that there is no disruption like this,” said.

While Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne described the disruption as “unacceptable,” Leblanc said that kind of talk must be followed by action.

“I think regulators have the authority, they have the power, the question is: do they have the courage to use it?” he said.

Interac, which operates the national debit network and electronic transfer system, said on Saturday it was back to business as usual after going out of service on Friday. In a written statement, the company said it plans to add a second telecommunications provider, to help give it some backup options in the event of another outage.

“Moving forward, we will add a provider to strengthen the redundancy of our existing network so Canadians can continue to rely on Interac every day,” said Interac spokesman Bryan Bossin.

Interac typically processes 18 million transactions a day, Bossin added.

Many of those transactions typically take place at small businesses, which rely on Interac as a relatively low-cost payment system. Having Interac sales — and in many cases, online orders — disrupted by the Rogers outage was the last thing those businesses needed after suffering two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the director of a small business association. Business.

“Just when they were starting to come out from under what they’ve been through, this happens,” said Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Some businesses likely lost thousands of dollars in sales that day due to the outage, Kelly said.

He was not optimistic that Rogers will adequately reimburse them, even though the company has said it will issue refunds.

“It had better be a lot more than 1/30 of your monthly Rogers bill,” Kelly said. “There has to be some acknowledgment of the lost revenue this cost them.”

Rogers also warned customers not to fall for a text message scam claiming to be from the company and providing a link to click on refunds.

“We will proactively apply the credit to your account and no action is required. If you receive a suspicious SMS, forward it to 7726 (SPAM),” said Rogers.

Kelly predicted that many business owners who had been exclusive customers of Rogers will now begin to explore other options, as will Interac.

“I’d be surprised if they didn’t,” said Kelly, who also isn’t hopeful that business owners will be able to file a claim under her business interruption insurance.

“We’ve seen during COVID that business interruption insurance hasn’t been particularly helpful,” Kelly said.

Most business interruption insurance wouldn’t cover something like Rogers’ interruption, said an executive with the Canadian Insurance Bureau.

“They need to get in touch with their agent and take a close look at the details of their specific policy, but typically something like this would not be covered,” said Rob de Pruis, IBC’s national director of consumer and industry. relations.

Some policies may have “interruption of service” clauses, but that’s more typically used for power outages, de Pruis said.

With archives from The Canadian Press


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