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$12,000 bill forgiven, Rogers will come to tea

From Monday's Globe and Mail

TORONTO — After months of fighting with Rogers Wireless over a cellphone bill of more than $12,000, Susan Drummond finally reached the ear of someone who can make a difference when her phone rang this weekend; it was none other than president and CEO Ted Rogers himself, ready to play Mr. Fix-It.

Mr. Rogers told Ms. Drummond he would do everything in his power to end a dispute that has mushroomed into a public-relations debacle for his company. He apologized to Ms. Drummond and offered to cancel her extraordinary bill and cover any costs. But Ms. Drummond and her partner, Harry Gefen, told Mr. Rogers that they have an extra condition: that he come to their home for a cup of tea.

"There's a lot more to this than money," said Ms. Drummond, an Osgoode Hall law professor. "We want Mr. Rogers to know what customers actually go through."

Although Mr. Rogers has agreed to the visit, due to previous commitments on the part of Mr. Rogers, Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen, the date has not yet been set. When the Rogers CEO does come calling, hopefully early in the new year, the couple intend to relate the details of what they learned in the course of their David and Goliath battle with his company.

"I think we'll have a good conversation," Mr. Gefen said.

"I believe in doing things face to face."

The battle that led to this weekend's extraordinary call began last August, when Ms. Drummond returned from a trip to Israel to find a Rogers Wireless bill for $12,237.60 awaiting her. Ms. Drummond's phone had been stolen and was used to make 352 calls in a single month, most of them to foreign countries that included Pakistan, Libya, Syria, India and Russia.

When she called Rogers, the company told Ms. Drummond there was nothing they could do, and that she would have to pay the entire amount.

The company subsequently added a series of late fees to the bill, bringing the total to more than $14,000.

In the months that followed, Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen have spent hundreds of hours researching the law and probing Roger's security and billing procedures. The surprising results of their investigation hit the national stage this weekend when they were reported in The Globe and Mail.

Among the revelations: that a group linked to Hezbollah had repeatedly "cloned" the cellphones of senior Rogers executives, including Mr. Rogers himself, and used them to make thousands of overseas calls in 1997 and 1998.

Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen also learned that Rogers has fraud-detection software that automatically alerts them to dramatic changes in calling patterns, but often "lets the meter run" instead of protecting customers by shutting down phones that have been misappropriated, as Ms. Drummond's was.

Mr. Gefen, a technology journalist, uncovered those secrets by attending a fraud forum in Toronto last September, where he tape-recorded a conversation with Cindy Hopper, a Rogers security official who was apparently unaware that she was speaking with an aggrieved customer.

In his conversation with Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen this weekend, Mr. Rogers told them that he would pay any costs they had incurred during their dispute, including the $200 Mr. Gefen paid to register at the fraud conference where he recorded Ms. Hopper.

Although she's glad that Rogers has offered to settle the dispute, Ms. Drummond says she will continue to pursue underlying issues, including a contentious clause in the Rogers contract that forbids consumers from taking the company to court or joining a class-action lawsuit against it.

"It's completely ridiculous," she said. "I'm glad that we got somewhere with this fight, but it shouldn't take a law professor and a technology journalist to make them behave like decent corporate citizens."

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