The Rogers Logo is photographed on a Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Rogers says wireless service fully restored but questions remain after massive outage

A massive countrywide wireless outage that left millions of Rogers Communications Inc. customers without access to service for more than 12 hours on Monday has been resolved, but questions remain about whether they will be compensated.

Chief technology officer Jorge Fernandes said in a statement on Tuesday that the root cause of the outage was a recent software update by Rogers’ network partner Ericsson.

While he apologized and acknowledged that the company failed to meet the level of service it strives to provide customers, he stopped short of saying whether Rogers would be offering customers compensation.

Telecom experts argued that customers should at a minimum receive a refund for the loss of service, but said it’s unlikely Rogers will proactively offer compensation.

“The bottom line is any time you’re getting a service, if you’re not provided that service for a certain number of hours, you should be compensated for the hours that you lost at a bare minimum,” said David Soberman, a marketing professor in the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

But John Lawford said he doesn’t expect Rogers will offer compensation because there are no quality of service requirements on wireless providers in Canada.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission “has never regulated (quality of service) on wireless,” the executive director and general counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre said in an email.

Dissatisfied customers should contact their Member of Parliament to ask for the Telecommunications Act to be amended to impose quality of service regulations, he said.

“Without it, there won’t be compensation, ever,” Lawford said.

Many users expressed frustration with the outage that left them without voice calls, texting and data, noting that they rely on the wireless service as they work from home under ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The nearly daylong wireless interruption had deep economic implications, experts said, with the issue impacting business sales and services such as food delivery and curbside pickup, as well as the ability for some Rogers customers to book or check in for medical appointments.

“Everything we do now is connected digitally and many people no longer have a home phone,” Soberman said. “This creates a really big problem, especially during the pandemic when people are doing a lot of things on their phones including making bookings for vaccinations.”

The extensive outage could also stoke concerns about telecommunications consolidation and costs in Canada, according to experts.

Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc., owner of Freedom Mobile, has been Canada’s fourth-largest carrier – operating in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. – but its future is in doubt after it agreed last month to be purchased by Rogers for $26 billion.

The Rogers-Shaw deal is subject to various federal approvals, including by the CRTC.

Rogers — which is one of Canada’s big three wireless carriers along with Bell and Telus — owns a national wireless network that does business under the Rogers, Fido and Chatr brands.

“There’s insufficient competition in the sector,” Soberman said. “The entire landscape is dominated by Rogers, Bell and Telus.”

The lack of competition contributes to some of the highest mobile phone rates in the world and inadequate customer service, he added.

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