Recognizing the critical role of the Competition Act (the “Act”) in promoting dynamic and fair markets, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, announced on February 7, 2022 that he would carefully evaluate potential ways to improve its operation. This included, among other things, adapting the law to today’s digital reality to better tackle emerging forms of harmful behaviour in the digital economy; tackling wage-fixing agreements; modernizing the penalty regime to ensure that it serves as a genuine deterrent against harmful business conduct; more clearly addressing drip pricing; increasing access to justice for those injured by harmful conduct; and fixing loopholes that allow for harmful conduct. During an interview with the Toronto Star, the Minister suggested that this was the first step in a “comprehensive” review of the Act.

Continue Reading Significant Amendments to Competition Act Coming Soon

As discussed in more detail in our prior blog post titled “Competition Bureau Recommendations to Strengthen the Competition Act”, in a continuing effort to ensure that Canada has an effective and impactful competition law framework, Senator Howard Wetston invited interested stakeholders to participate in a consultation to promote additional dialogue on the path forward for Canadian competition law. As part of this consultation, Senator Wetston received comments from more than 25 stakeholders, including a detailed submission from the Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”).

The Bureau’s submission includes 35 wide-ranging recommendations that, if implemented, would fundamentally reshape competition policy in Canada. To help businesses better understand the impact of these recommendations, we are releasing a series of blog posts discussing the recommendations on a topic-by-topic basis. This blog post is focussed on abuse of dominance.

Continue Reading Competition Bureau Recommendations Regarding Abuse of Dominance

Governments and competition agencies around the world, including those in Canada, the United States and Europe, are reviewing their competition policies to assess whether they are capable of addressing novel and complex issues arising in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing digital economy. These issues arise because the digital economy, unlike traditional markets, is often charactered by, among other things, platform-based business models, multi-sided markets, network effects, economies of scale, rapid technological change and disruptive innovation.

Continue Reading Competition Bureau Recommendations to Strengthen the Competition Act: Introduction

Competition, marketing and foreign investment law saw a number of changes in the past year. Many of these changes were in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly changed the way Canadians, businesses and government agencies operate. Despite the pandemic, the Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) has actively continued its enforcement activity and provided a number of guidance documents to help businesses stay onside the Competition Act (the “Act”). Similarly, Canada’s Investment Review Division (“IRD”) of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (“ISED”) has also responded to the challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Continue Reading Fasken’s Forecast for 2022 and Beyond: 2021’s Top 10 Trends in Canadian Competition, Marketing & Foreign Investment Law and what Businesses should expect in 2022

On November 4, 2021, Justine Reisler and Robin Spillette attended the Global Competition Review’s annual Women in Antitrust conference in Washington, D.C. The event featured an incredible lineup of female lawyers and economists on panels addressing some of the most cutting-edge topics in antitrust today, namely: (i) assessing deal risk in a time of changing standards, (ii) approaches being taken by competition agencies to address global concerns about Big Tech, (iii) sustainable economic development, and (iv) innovation in the pharmaceutical sector.

Continue Reading Key Themes from the Global Competition Review’s Annual Women in Antitrust Conference

On September 20, 2021, Canadians will head to the polls to elect a new House of Commons. All of Canada’s major political parties have released political platforms which outline their plans to revise and, at least in their view, improve Canadian competition law and policy. Depending on which party is ultimately elected (and whether they win a majority), competition law in Canada may see some significant changes, including more serious penalties for existing offences and reviewable practices, as well as a few new ones.

Continue Reading How will the outcome of the 2021 Federal Election impact Competition Law in Canada?

South Africa’s Competition Commission (the “Commission”) has published the finalised Terms of Reference for its Online Intermediation Platforms Market Inquiry (“OIPMI”). The OIPMI follows the Commission’s release of its “Competition in the Digital Economy” paper wherein it notes the benefits of online products and services but expressed concerns about the ‘winner-takes-all’ nature of some of

The recent decision of the Constitutional Court in Competition Commission of South Africa v Pickford Removals SA (Pty) Limited may have a material effect on the future prosecution of prohibited practices – including cartel behavior and abuses of dominance.

The Pickford decision relates to the interpretation of section 67(1) of the South African Competition Act as it stood before it was amended by the Competition Amendment Act, 2018.  The section said:

“…a complaint in respect of a prohibited practice may not be initiated more than three years after the practice has ceased

The main finding of the Constitutional Court was that section 67(1) of the Competition Act does not constitute a prescription provision, but a procedural time-bar provision, which in the event of non-compliance can be condoned.  The effect is essentially that a prohibited practice complaint does not necessarily lapse three years after a prohibited practice has ceased.

In its finding, the Constitutional Court set aside an order of the Competition Appeal Court (CAC) and the matter was remitted to the Competition Tribunal (Tribunal) for further hearing.
Continue Reading Widening the net – the Constitutional Court’s softening of the time-bar defence under South African competition law

So-called “excessive price” prohibitions are premised on a theory of harm that is generally rejected in competition law. Indeed, Canada’s Competition Act does not even contain a prohibition against excessive pricing. Among the many reasons for not prohibiting excessive prices are that to do so would undermine investment incentives (both of firms already in the market and potential entrants). Further, the phenomenon of excessive prices, in the absence of exclusionary conduct, is generally viewed as a temporary phenomenon that will be corrected by the market. Also, the legal uncertainty associated with the vagueness of the ‘excessive’ element in the concept could easily result in regulatory overreach.

In the context of COVID-19, the traditional arguments against prohibiting excessive prices have given way to a more consumer-oriented approach with respect to those supplying consumers directly. In response to concerns that retailers may be incentivized to substantially increase prices for products critical to the COVID-19 response, three Canadian provinces (i.e. British Columbia, Ontario & Nova Scotia) have specifically prohibited selling essential goods at unconscionable prices, or at prices markedly higher than fair market value. Other provinces appear to be more actively seeking to enforce pre-existing price gouging prohibitions in their consumer protection legislation, particularly in regards to necessary goods.

Yet, as already noted, it is unclear what constitutes an ‘excessive’ or ‘unconscionable’ price. Despite the fact that some provinces have had prohibitions on price gouging in their consumer protection legislation for decades, those provisions have been rarely used and scarcely considered by Canadian courts. At the same time, failing to comply with these provisions can have serious consequences, including financial penalties, restitution and reputational harm – and in some cases criminal fines and jail time. There is also the possibility a class action lawsuit could be instituted by a consumer on behalf of a class of consumers. What follows is a description of the price gouging laws of each Canadian province, as well as a description of their enforcement approach, where available, in order to help businesses understand how to avoid liability in respect of this particularly vague area of law.
Continue Reading Price Gouging Prohibitions across Canada