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Rogers pays $275,000 after telemarketing probe

A Rogers Communications store in Ottawa


Rogers Communications Inc. has agreed to pay out $275,000 to educational institutions after a CRTC investigation into the Toronto-based telecom company's telemarketing practices.

The Toronto-based wireless, cable, Internet and media company was using automated machines to make unsolicited calls to its own wireless customers, letting them know how to purchase more prepaid minutes for their cellphones. But under the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's rules, telecom companies must first get prior consent for such activities.

Rogers, which, like other telecom companies involved in such disputes, does not admit that it broke any rules, is giving $175,000 to the École polytechnique de Montréal and $100,000 to the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

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"This latest investigation reinforces our commitment to protecting the privacy of consumers and educating businesses about their responsibilities," Masood Qureshi, the CRTC's senior manager of telemarketing regulation, said in a news release. "We are pleased that Rogers is working to address our concerns and changing its telemarketing practices."

Rogers has also pledged to immediately stop these automated calls and has said it will review its compliance policies "to ensure ongoing adherence with the CRTC's rules relating to automated calling devices."

The negotiated amount that Rogers volunteered to give out is slightly more than previous ones by Rogers peers in Canada's telecom sector. In December, BCE Inc.'s Bell Canada donated $266,000 to Concordia University for making the so-called robo-calls. Vancouver-based Telus Corp. also gave $200,000 to Carleton University after the CRTC raised concerns.

Like Rogers, neither Bell nor Telus admit that they have broken any rules, though they have agreed to make the donations after the regulator got in touch with the companies about complaints.

In an interview, Rogers senior vice-president for regulatory affairs, Ken Engelhart, said the company was dragged into an existing CRTC investigation that started with Telus and moved on to Bell. He said Rogers got a letter asking whether it engaged in similar activities. The company's reply was that it did, but stopped as soon as it heard that Telus had been forced to make the payments - which are determined by the CRTC, which takes market share into account.

Mr. Engelhart added that the CRTC has the power to pressure companies under the Do Not Call rules for unsolicited marketing messages, but that service messages are exempt.

"We thought that was a service message, the CRTC thinks that's a marketing message - I still think it's a service message," he said, noting that customers give a land line number to Rogers. "When the dust settles, I might go to the CRTC and just say to them, can we change the rule going forward, because these kind of messages are very helpful to customers."

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