Call it a case of Tea Party thinking infecting Canadian business.
Rogers Telecommunications, having been ordered to pay a $10-million penalty for misleading advertising, is arguing before an Ontario court this week that regulations preventing it from providing false information violate its Charter right to freedom of expression.
If the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rules in Rogers’ favour and against the Competition Bureau -- which levied the penalty against Rogers -- it could open the door to an anything-goes approach to advertising in Canada.
“Using ‘freedom of speech’ as an excuse for misleading Canadians? Big Telecom lobbyists just don't seem to know when enough is enough,” media consumer advocacy group OpenMedia commented on its Facebook page.
The Competition Bureau levied the $10-million fine in November, 2010, after finding Rogers’ Chatr wireless brand had engaged in “misleading advertising” with its claims that Chatr users experience "fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers" and have "no worries about dropped calls".
After reviewing technical data, the bureau concluded that “there is no discernible difference in dropped call rates between Rogers/Chatr and new entrants.”
The Bureau also ordered Rogers to “pay restitution to affected customers.
”Rogers will argue in front of the court that the requirement that companies run performance tests before making claims about performance in its advertising violates its Charter rights to free expression, reported Sarah Schmidt at Postmedia.
Michael Janigan, executive director and general counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, told Postmedia that “the case effectively advances the proposition that companies that advertise shouldn’t be forced to actually have the facts and evidence on hand before they make a claim and it somehow devalues public discourse if they are forced to do so. With all due respect to that position, it sounds a bit like a Madison Avenue wet dream.”
Rogers responded by saying its case is actually much more narrow. “We’re committed to truth in advertising and support legislation that prevents false claims and protects consumers, including the Competition Act. We’re not challenging that fundamental principle. We’re raising two specific, narrow concerns with the act as it now stands,” spokeswoman Patricia Trott told Postmedia.
The case began in 2010 when upstart wireless carrier Wind Mobile filed a complaint against Rogers with the Competition Bureau, arguing there is “absolutely no solid or objective technical basis” for Rogers’ claims. The Competition Bureau agreed.
The case is expected to last through the month.
Canada's 7 Media Giants
Postmedia - $1.1 Billion
Postmedia was born in 2010, when the bankrupt Canwest media chain was broken up. A consortium led by then-National Post CEO Paul Godfrey bought Canwest's newspaper assets, including the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, as well as both English-language dailies in Vancouver.<br> <br> Pictured: Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Torstar - $1.48 Billion
Torstar's flagship property is the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. It also owns the Metroland chain of weeklies and the internationally popular Harlequin, publisher of pulp romances.<br> <br> Pictured: The Toronto Star building in downtown Toronto.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Shaw - $4.74 Billion
Western Canadian cable TV giant Shaw entered the media big leagues with the 2010 purchase of Canwest's broadcasting assets, including the Global TV network. The company was founded by Jim Shaw and is still controlled by his family.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Brad Shaw<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em><br> <br> <em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slide stated that Shaw had purchased Canwest's newspaper assets. It only purchased the broadcasting assets. The company had backed out of an earlier attempt to buy three CTV stations.</em>
Quebecor - $9.8 Billion
Founded by Pierre Peladeau and run by his son, Pierre-Karl Peladeau, Quebecor owns the Sun Media and Osprey newspaper chains, as well as cable provider Videotron, Quebec TV network TVA, and a number of publishing houses.<br> <br> Pictured: Pierre-Karl Peladeau<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Rogers - $12.1 Billion
Founded by Ted Rogers, Rogers Communications is a major player in cable TV and wireless services. The company controls Rogers Media, which operates 70 publications, 54 radio stations and a number of TV properties including CityTV and the Shopping Channel.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Nadir Mohamed<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Woodbridge (Thomson Reuters) - $13.8B
Woodbridge is the holding company owned by the billionaire Thomson family. It controls 55 per cent of Thomson Reuters, one of the world's largest news services organizations. Woodbridge's revenue is not reported, but Thomson Reuters reported revenue of $13.8 billion in 2011.<br> <br> Pictured: The late Kenneth Thomson, company chairman, in Toronto in 2003.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Bell Canada (BCE) - $18.1 Billion
BCE is one of Canada's largest corporations, and owns telephone, Internet and TV infrastructure. Its subsidary Bell Media purchased the CHUM group of radio stations in 2006, and Astral Media in 2012. The company also controls CTV, making it a dominant media player in Canada.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>