As I tweeted yesterday, I had a surprising experience with Rogers customer service yesterday. I was calling to add a text plan to my wife’s cellphone account (the fact that her current plan – which includes hundreds of voice minutes, 1 GB of data, and an assortment of additional services – still charges 15 cents (soon 20 cents) per text is fodder for different post). After I agreed to pay a few more dollars each month to cover texts, the agent asked if used my laptop to access public wifi networks. When I said that I did, he asked if I knew the dangers of using public wifi, which I was told included the possibility of hackers accessing my data or inserting viruses onto my computer. Given the risks, the agent continued, might I be interested in the Rogers’ Rocket Stick?
In my view, these scare tactics are shameful. Mobile internet services are good products that can and should be sold on the basis of the convenience they provide, not by scaring consumers into thinking that alternative access services are unsafe. Yet the Rogers agent went for the FUD approach despite the facts that:
- Rogers operates hundreds of public wifi hotspots across the country. When promoting its hotspots, it describes them as providing “high-speed, secure access to the Internet.”
- Rogers permits Internet tethering from many smartphones. Many users may find that tethering provides a more cost effective solution than purchasing yet another mobile Internet device. The agent did not mention this alternative.
- There are risks with public wifi, but those can be mitigated through a variety of steps on users’ computers. Advice on what do include Microsoft’s advice on public wifi networks, Lifehacker on how to stay safe on public wifi networks, and Ars Technica on staying safe at public hotspots.
Bad or inappropriate customer service can happen in any company, but when taken with the Competition Bureau $10 million fine for Rogers’ misleading wireless claims and the CRTC’s concern with its non-compliance with Internet traffic management disclosure requirements, it does not paint a pretty picture of one of Canada’s dominant communications companies.