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Dropped-call tests get failing grade

Rogers can't back claims, feds say

Tests undertaken by Rogers Communications Inc. weren't enough to back claims of fewer dropped calls made in ads for its Chatr discount wireless service, the federal competition watchdog said Wednesday.

Tom Curry, a lawyer for the Competition Bureau, told the hearing Rogers did not compete fairly in launching an "extensive" marketing campaign, which hurt new entrants and the public as a result of the allegedly misleading claims.

Curry said the tests were not valid and could not be considered "adequate and proper" because Rogers did not test all of the new wireless carriers or all of the cities where the service was offered before making the claim.

He also argued the tests conducted by Rogers were not appropriate because users of the network, typically young people, students and tradespeople who live in urban areas, don't tend to travel with their mobile phones.

The Competition Bureau has asked the courts to order Rogers to pay a $10-million penalty, the maximum allowable, and to pay restitution to affected customers. The regulator also wants Rogers to issue a corrective notice.

Rogers has said an independent third-party conducted testing that validates Chatr's advertising.

The trial comes after a complaint by new wireless carrier Wind Mobile over Rogers' advertising claims about its network superiority. The federal government opened up the domestic cellphone market in 2008 with a spectrum auction that made additional frequencies available to new wireless service providers, such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile.

Chatr was launched in 2010 by Rogers, which also owns Rogers Wireless and Fido, to compete in the talk-and-text market,

Rogers has Canada's largest wireless subscriber base.

Rogers was forced in 2009 to pull ads saying it had Canada's most reliable wireless network after Telus took it to court over the claims.