Telus Corp. has been granted a temporary injunction that could force Rogers Communications Inc. to cease advertising that it operates "Canada's most reliable network."
After Telus launched a new high-speed cellphone and data network earlier this month that matches the speed of Rogers, it requested that its rival drop the dual boasts of running both the fastest and most reliable network. When Rogers refused the request, Telus launched a suit under the Competition Act in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which heard oral arguments last Friday.
In court, Rogers acknowledged that the new Telus network removed the speed advantage Rogers had held, and indicated it would drop its claim of running the fastest network. In a ruling Tuesday, Mr. Justice J. Christopher Grauer stated that, "the technological advantage that allowed Rogers to represent that it has Canada's most reliable network has disappeared," and that to continue with the ads would be "misleading."
"We're pleased but not surprised by the ruling," said Shawn Hall, senior communications manager at Telus.
In a statement, Rogers said: "We are perplexed by the decision. We continue to believe that our network reliability claim is valid." The company added that it has filed an appeal with the B.C. Court of Appeal, and said further steps would be taken shortly. Representatives refused to elaborate.
The two companies will be back in court on Friday to argue about the consequences of the decision.
Still, Rogers' claims of running the most reliable network may not disappear any time soon.
In his ruling, Judge Grauer said he was wary of forcing the company to pull its ads, in part because the court is not in a position to ensure compliance. While billboards that have recently been erected would likely stay in place, Rogers may have to scuttle other elements of its current multimillion-dollar holiday campaign, including radio and television commercials that have been produced but not yet aired.
In his written ruling, Judge Grauer noted that the wireless industry in Canada is dominated by "the corporate triumvirate consisting of Rogers, Telus, and Bell Mobility Inc. Much like the triumvirs of the late Roman Republic, the competition among them is intense."
Sometimes, the competitors are similar to the point of confusion. Yesterday, Bell representatives noted that the new high-speed Telus service operates on a network built jointly by their company. But rather than launch legal action against Rogers, Bell is taking its case to consumers with a new ad campaign. Its major claims? That Bell offers "Canada's largest, fastest, and most reliable network."
Judge Grauer's comments may cheer consumers who are frustrated by marketing tactics employed by all three major wireless carriers. Noting that Rogers' claims of superiority in ads refer to footnotes that sometimes make very narrow comparisons, he wrote that one recent newspaper advertisement for Rogers "occupies a full page and is therefore one of the few ads in evidence by any wireless network provider wherein I could read the fine-print disclaimer unaided by magnification."