Saved by Translation (Sort of)

Up here in Canada there’s been a bit of a fight brewing between one of our major media/cable companies, Rogers, and one of the organizations who owns the poles that Rogers leases for their mobility services etc. Well the story took an interesting twist last week.

The entire argument has gone through court and has basically revolved around a missing commma in one sentence that essentially had massive ramifications in when the supplier could raise prices, and how much notice they gave Rogers before doing so.

Rogers interpreted the clause to mean the supplier would have to give them one year’s notice ahead of the termination date in the contract, and the supplier took it to mean they could cancel anytime with one year’s notice.

Initially things didn’t look good for Rogers, and in 2006 the CRTC (regulatory body) ruled in favour of the supplier. But then a few weeks ago they found their ace-in-the-hole – the FRENCH translation of the contract.

What the agreement said:

In English

The disputed section in the English version of the Support Structure Agreement (source CRTC): “Subject to the termination provisions of this Agreement, this Agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

In French

The same section of the model Support Structure Agreement in French (source CRTC, emphasis added): “Sous réserve des dispositions relatives à la résiliation du présent contrat, ce dernier prend effet à la date de signature. Il demeure en vigueur pour une période de cinq (5) ans, à partir de la date de la signature et il est subséquemment renouvelé pour des périodes successives de cinq (5) années, à moins d’un préavis écrit de résiliation à l’autre partie un an avant l’expiration du contrat.”

Source: Globe and Mail

Based on the language in the French contract the Regulator reversed their decision and sided with Rogers interpretation – though in the end it turns out that it doesn’t matter… in 2003 the Supreme Court took away the regulators ability to enforce power lines & poles.