Rogers Communications’ network outage on Friday left most consumers and businesses without service for nearly a full day, some for longer — and now they’re looking for compensation.
The outages affected wireless service, internet connectivity and phone lines, as well as important infrastructure such as the Interac payment network.
Rogers eventually told frustrated consumers that a maintenance issue was behind the downed service, and promised that users would be “proactively credited” for the disruption.
Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri told Global News in an interview Monday that the company would “do the right thing” when it comes to reimbursing affected users and businesses alike.
So what are Rogers customers owed, and when will the compensation land in your account? Here’s what we know so far.
What is the status of Rogers’ network?
Staffieri said Monday that the telecom giant ran a “root cause analysis” into the system failure that confirmed initial assumptions about an error in the code of a network maintenance upgrade.
That error was pushed through the Rogers system, which overloaded the network with data and caused equipment to fail, he said.
The company is still seeing “very few intermittent issues” but Staffieri did not have an exact figure on how many customers are still without service on Monday afternoon.
He said the company’s focus is on getting connectivity back and ensuring the resiliency of the network in the days to come.
“What happened on Friday is unacceptable and we’re committed to taking every step within our control to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
How much is Rogers going to give customers? When?
The telecom confirmed on Tuesday that it would be providing a credit worth five days of service charges to users, calling it a “first step” in restoring customer confidence. News of the credit was first reported by the Toronto Star.
Staffieri confirmed to Global News earlier that credits will be automatically applied to customer accounts.
The compensation should appear automatically on the next month’s bill, though he said some might be processed the following month.
This approach is similar to how Rogers handled refunds for its outage in April 2021.
Affected customers won’t have to apply for the refund in any way — text messages purporting to be from Rogers and asking users to enter information or click on links to claim their compensation should be treated as likely spam.
Users with internet provider Start, which piggybacks off Rogers’ network and saw its service disrupted as well on Friday, will have to wait a little bit longer for clarity on compensation. Start told Global News in a statement on Monday that it was waiting for direction from Rogers and Champagne on how wholesalers will be affected in the wake of the outage.
What about businesses?
As inconvenient as Friday’s outages were for consumers, the inability to process payments or, in some cases, answer the phone meant significant lost revenue for many businesses in Canada.
“This coming right after two years of pandemic-related restrictions and closures is devastating. Every single day of income at this period is absolutely critical,” Dan Kelly, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), told Global News on Monday.
Many businesses were left scrambling to come up with different payment solutions after going cashless during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly noted.
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The CFIB is hoping there’s a more significant recognition from Rogers about the widespread impact of its outages on the Canadian economy.
Kelly said he’d like to see a month’s worth of charges for Rogers utilities covered for affected businesses, not just a single day, to reflect the outsized impact for business owners.
“I’m going to lose it if Rogers thinks that one day of (fees) is the adequate compensation for a small business,” he said.
Global News asked Staffieri if businesses would be treated any differently than personal accounts.
He did not answer directly, but reiterated that the company is having individual conversations with customers on a case-by-case basis to address concerns about service and compensation.
“Our primary goal is to make sure they have the connectivity and to continue to work with them and keep them as customers. It’s in our interest to do that,” Staffieri said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement Monday that Rogers “has a responsibility to pay back small businesses that lost revenue during the outage.”
Kelly said one lesson for those affected by the outage is that while bundling services with one telco might keep costs lower upfront, diversifying phone and internet deals could protect a business when service drops.
“From a business contingency perspective, the best advice we have for business owners is not to put all of your apples in one wagon here,” he said.
How do we know this won’t happen again?
The outage has prompted swift reaction from Rogers, government and other stakeholders to ensure network outages aren’t as long-lasting or widespread.
“You can expect changes going forward to make sure that we improve the resiliency and redundancy of our networks so that this doesn’t happen again,” Staffieri said.
Rogers will announce exact changes to its network infrastructure in due course, the CEO said, but he hinted that there will be operational changes and stopgaps built into the network to avoid cases where a single error can be spread quickly through the system.
Staffieri also said the company had identified the issue that prevented some customers from being able to call 911 during the outage, and said Rogers would be sharing that information with other industry stakeholders to keep critical services functioning when any one provider experiences an outage.
Staffieri and executives from Bell and Telus talked with Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne for nearly an hour Monday in a call that focussed on network resiliency, according to the minister. The companies were given a 60-day deadline to reach an agreement to explore how to implement emergency roaming when networks go down to allow access to emergency services, as well as to create a communication protocol to better inform the public and authorities, and provide mutual assistance during outages.
Interac, meanwhile, said on Monday that it was adding another network provider to its system after the Rogers outage left millions of Canadians locked out of online payments.
What can consumers do?
The widespread impact of the Rogers outage reveals an over-reliance on a few major telecom providers in Canada, industry stakeholders say, and there may be a role for consumers to play in promoting competition in the sector.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) filed a letter with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on Friday during the outage calling for an inquiry into the problems.
The NDP also called for an inquiry Monday and suggested it would call Champagne, Rogers and Interac to committee to hold them accountable for the lost service.
Champagne confirmed on Monday afternoon that the CRTC will investigate the cause of the outage.
PIAC is also seeking to establish a set of baseline service requirements in the event of an outage to keep Canadians informed about the issues and create a standard for compensation in these incidents.
Yuka Sai, a staff lawyer with PIAC, told Global News the lack of such standards leaves consumers in the dark about what they’re owed when their network drops.
She said the outages reveal gaps in Canada’s telecom landscape, where drops in service can have an amplified impact.
“The national magnitude of the outage really calls into question whether it’s wise to rely on one large national provider in many cases to provide a wide swath of network services, internet services, and that, in the absence of real competition, is a real problem,” she said.
Rosa Addario is a communications manager with Open Media, which advocates for an open, affordable and surveillance-free internet in Canada.
Both she and Sai said the best thing for consumers to do now if they’re upset about the Rogers outages is to write letters to Champagne and their local members of Parliament calling for a more competitive telecom landscape in Canada.
Addario said the need to pressure policymakers is especially high as Rogers seeks regulatory approval for its proposed $20-billion acquisition of Shaw Communications.
“We should be angry right now and we should be upset and we should take this as an opportunity to light a fire under us and consider how we can strive for a better system,” she told Global News.
“This doesn’t have to be the status quo.”
— with files from Global News’ Anne Gaviola, Eric Stober and Reuters