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Busy signals delay couple's date with Rogers

Globe and Mail Update

TORONTO — For most customers, the elimination of a $14,000 bill, a personal apology from the president and a cheque for $5,000 would probably be enough to wipe the slate clean. But Susan Drummond and Harry Gefen are not your average clients -- and they're still waiting for Rogers Communications CEO Ted Rogers to come for tea.

"We think he should hear the voice of the customer," said Ms. Drummond, an Osgoode Hall law professor who found herself caught up in a battle with Mr. Rogers's company after her cellphone number was stolen and used to make hundreds of calls to terrorist hot spots.

Ms. Drummond and her partner, Mr. Gefen, ultimately won their dispute with Rogers after The Globe and Mail published an account of the issues they uncovered in the course of their legal battle. The most surprising revelation: The cellphones of senior Rogers executives, including Mr. Rogers himself, had been cloned in 1998 by a group linked to Hezbollah.

That fact turned their dispute into world news, and got them Mr. Rogers's ear. Hours after their story appeared, he called to apologize and inform them that their massive bill had been erased. But that wasn't the end of it. Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen were determined not to relinquish their platform, and told Mr. Rogers that they wanted him to come to their Toronto home for a cup of tea and a firsthand account of what they had gone through.

Nearly two months later, the meeting has yet to take place. Mr. Rogers had agreed to come to their house this past Monday, but an assistant called that day to announce that Mr. Rogers couldn't make it.

"We're starting to wonder how serious he really is about this," Ms. Drummond said in an interview.

Jan Innes, Rogers vice-president of communications, said Mr. Rogers does plan to meet with the couple, but has found it hard to arrange a meeting due to his busy schedule and mutual absences that have included a month-long trip to Israel by Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen.

"Ted was away, and they were away," Ms. Innes said. "It hasn't been easy to get them together. But he is taking this very seriously." She said Mr. Rogers would prefer to hold the meeting in his office, or to speak with the couple by phone to save time. "He has a very heavy schedule," she added.

But Ms. Drummond and Mr. Gefen said it's important that Mr. Rogers meet with them in their home.

They want to deliver what amounts to a cellphone customer manifesto that will help the CEO see the perspective of a client caught up in the machinery of a giant corporation, and they consider the location of the meeting to be a crucial factor.

"In some ways, it occurs to me that inviting Mr. Rogers to our home was akin to passengers on the Titanic asking the captain to come down and see that 'dangerously large mountain of ice' only visible from below decks," Mr. Gefen said.

Mr. Gefen and Ms. Drummond have received a $5,000 cheque from company, along with a note from Mr. Rogers who described it as a goodwill gesture. However, they have refused to cash it.

After months of research into the legal issues surrounding her dispute with Rogers, Ms. Drummond is convinced that Canadian cellphone customers are severely handicapped in their dealings with companies. Among the things she uncovered was a clause in Rogers' contract that precludes customers from suing the company or joining a class-action suit against it.

She believes that she won her battle only because of media interest, and that customers have been "abandoned by the government."

"The court of public of public opinion, represented by the media, effectively provides really the only other legitimate option for vindicating a sense of having been wronged by the corporation," she said.

Mr. Gefen is still prepared to meet with Mr. Rogers. "I asked him to come for tea, and the offer stands. We're just waiting."

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