Table of Contents
- How Did it Happen?
- Message on My Answering Machine
- Personal and Corporate Apology from Rogers’ Directing Mind
- What Was I Supposed to Do with That Apology?
- Broadcasting Ted Rogers’ Apology
- What are the Legal Implications of Ted Rogers’ Apology?
How Did it Happen?Back to Top
On December 17, 2006, within hours of publication of the Globe and Mail’s first article on my debacle with Rogers, I was inundated with phone calls from media outlets across the country. By midmorning, I had interviews scheduled with CBC radio and Television and CTV.
As I was driving to the CBC building in downtown Toronto for the first scheduled television interview, I received a call on my cell phone.
I answered the phone.
“Is that Susan Drummond?” I was asked.
“Yes it is,” I replied.
“Yes, hello. It’s Ted Rogers calling,” said the caller.
I apologized and told Ted Rogers that I was in the car at that moment and it was not safe for me to drive and talk on the cell phone at the same time and asked him to please leave a message on my home phone and I would return his call as soon as possible.
When I returned home after a whirlwind day of nationally broadcast interviews on the Rogers story, there were several messages from Ted Rogers indicating that he was trying to get a hold of me. The final message was more explicit about what he wanted to talk about: Ted Rogers wanted to offer a personal apology for what he called the inexcusable behaviour of his corporation to me over the previous four months.
Personal and Corporate Apology from Rogers’ Directing MindBack to Top
“It’s Ted Rogers,” began the CEO and President of Rogers Communications Group Inc. “I’m going,” he continued,
to try and get you on your cellular phone. If I am not able to do that, I’ll leave a message here, and the message is really pretty simple: I knew nothing of this issue that’s reported in the Globe and Mail until I read it. That’s the first. That’s no excuse. I’m accountable. Second, I deeply apologize on behalf of the company. There’s no excuse for it, and without reservation, I give you my apology. Third all the amounts will be written off. And fourth, you will have some costs in this. You paid to go to a conference, and you had other costs. If you will send them to my attention I will pay them immediately. And I apologize again and I will try and get you on your cellular phone.”
To my mind, this apology could not have been deeper or more broad. Ted Rogers was apologizing as a human being, on his own behalf for events for which he held himself to be personally responsible. And he was also apologizing as the founder, CEO, and president of Rogers Communications Inc, which own Rogers Wireless Inc – and so therefore also on behalf of the corporation.
The remarkable depth and breadth of this apology, on its plain language, signalled to me that, amongst other things, the highest possible agent who could speak on behalf of Rogers Wireless Inc was wiping the slate clean of all possible attribution of fault to me for the Rogers and Me debacle.
What Was I Supposed to Do with That Apology?Back to Top
I believe Rogers had every intention that that apology, and the fact that it had been made, be broadcast to the largest possible Canadian audience at the earliest possible moment after the first Globe and Mail article was issued – a broadcast otherwise known as damage control.
Given that Ted Rogers, the founder, CEO, and President of Rogers Communications Group is a spectacularly public figure in Canada whose family name is a corporate logo that graces, among other things, the former “Skydome” in Toronto, it wouldn’t even be minimally circumspect for Ted Rogers, the human being, to assume that the message on my home telephone was a private communication.
Indeed, so public was the phenomenon of Ted Rogers telephone call to my home that throughout that media-filled day, as Rogers Corporation was trying to get a hold of me on my itinerary from one nationally broadcast interview to another, Jan Innes, VP Corporate Communications, issued press releases to announce that Ted Rogers himself was trying to get a hold of me to personally apologize.
My perception was that if I announced Ted Rogers’ apology to the media on December 17, or shortly thereafter – which I felt I was being invited, indeed URGED to do by Rogers’ Corporate Communications Department – I would be doing Rogers’ Public Relations work for it – and without remuneration.
Broadcasting Ted Rogers’ apologyBack to Top
Rogers Wireless Inc notes in their defence that
the Plaintiff caused the ROGERSANDME.CA domain name to the [sic] registered at which website location the Plaintiff includes, among other things, a digital recording of a voicemail message from Edward S. Rogers, O.C., apparently for the purpose of attracting attention.
This “argument” appears odd for several reasons.
It’s first of all odd because, though raised in a formal court of law, it’s not a legal argument. Rogers Wireless is not claiming anywhere that it is libellous or defamatory to post Ted Rogers’ apology on a web site. Clearly the apology is “true” – it reproduces, in high fidelity, the message Ted Rogers left on my answering machine. And the truth is an absolute defence to libel.
The apology also fits within the “fair comment” defence to libel and defamation: Rogers’ VP Corporate Communications made the apology itself a “public figure” when, in a news release to the national media, she mentioned that Mr. Rogers had personally apologized to me. In any event, the legal doctrine of “fair comment” applies as a defence to remarks made, regardless of the outlandishness of the content, about public figures such as Ted Rogers and his apology.
Rogers is also not arguing that I have violated any privacy right of Ted Rogers, the individual human being. This argument could hardly get off the ground: no reasonable human being, in Ted Rogers position as Rogers CEO and President – a major corporation that was in front page media headlines across the country on December 17, 2006 – would have a reasonable expectation that an apology to the consumer who also featured in that major media story would constitute a private communication. Ted Rogers, the individual human being, would be imputed knowledge that he was offering himself up to be used as a prop by his very own Corporate Communications department in a public relations ploy to turn the media heat down.
In any event, all of these potential “legal arguments” that might conceivably be floated in a court of law (libel, defamation, violation of privacy rights) are completely irrelevant to the legal dispute in Small Claims Court, which is about a breach of contract and about a breach of an obligation on the part of Rogers Wireless Inc to use good faith in its dealings with ordinary consumers. Minimum thresholds of legal probity need to be met in Canadian Courts of law. This is not a case that in any way turns on “The Plaintiff’s” use of the media.
“I posted Ted Rogers’ apology on my web site?” would be one response. “So sue me.”
What are the Legal Implications of Ted Rogers’ Apology?Back to Top
In light of Ted Rogers’ very public apology (a publicity solicited by Rogers Corporate Communications Department) there appears, therefore, to be an evident discrepancy between the position of Rogers Wireless Inc the Defendant and Rogers Wireless Inc the Corporation:
I sued Rogers Wireless Inc in Small Claims Court on September 19, 2005. On October 4, 2005, Rogers Wireless Inc filed a Defence that said that I bore liability for what happened to my son’s cell phone because, as per the terms of Rogers Wireless Service Agreement, I had reneged on a purported obligation to pay over $14,000 to Rogers on my Wireless account.
The Statement of Defence nowhere makes a claim that I must pay $14,000. I am suing Rogers for $10,000; Rogers has never been a Plaintiff in any law suit that has named me as the Defendant.
Rogers’ law team argues that my failure to comply with this supposed obligation contributed to the damages that I suffered with respect to my son’s cell phone.
On the plain language of Ted Rogers’ apology, I never had such an obligation and Mr. Rogers, both personally and as the CEO and President of Rogers Communications Inc, was very sorry that his company Rogers Wireless Inc had ever imputed such a spurious obligation to me.
Mr. Rogers was so determined in his apology to underline how baseless were the claims of Roger’s legal team over the prior four months that, in the same breath, he zero’d the charges on my account and offered to pay for any costs I had incurred as a result of the debacle.
To my mind, and I believe to the mind of the Canadian public at large, that is the plain meaning of Mr. Rogers’ apology.
Confusion between Rogers Communications Group, Rogers Wireless Inc, and Rogers Legal TeamBack to Top
But Rogers Wireless continues to maintain in its Statement of Defence that I had an obligation to pay Rogers over $14,000 that was racked up on my stolen cell phone - even one that cannot ever be called in because the CEO of Rogers' Wireless cleared it as a debt. My null obligation is supposed to have made me contributorily responsible for the damages claimed in my Small Claims Court action.
Rogers Wireless also claims that because I didn’t call Rogers the moment that I realized the phone had been stolen (August 27, one day after Rogers escalated my account to its legal department and collection department) I hadn’t allowed Rogers to mitigate its losses.
In defending itself against my claim for damages flowing from Rogers fundamental breach of contract in shutting off my 12 year-old son’s cell phone 8 days before my invoice was due, Rogers says I contributed to what happened to my son’s cell phone because I am contractually obliged to call Rogers once I know my cell phone has been stolen and also contractually liable for the total charges (over $14,0000) on MY cell phone right up until the moment that I reported it stolen.
In fact, Rogers is so insistent upon that legal argument that Rogers Wireless Inc contested a motion that I brought on June 8, 2006, to have those paragraphs of Rogers defence that relate to this putative obligation struck from the record.
As a result of the intransigence of Rogers Wireless on this point, I am compelled to raise an argument in my Small Claims Court trial that Rogers’ attribution of fault to me is spurious and ill-founded. As the motion judge noted with respect to the plain language argument that I made in my motion and affidavit of June 8, 2006: Only Mr. Rogers himself can testify about what he intended by his apology.
I have, accordingly, summonsed Ted Rogers to testify.