Pricing and Distribution

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?

Non-compete clauses are included in virtually all purchase and sale agreements. They are designed to ensure that purchasers realize the full value of the acquired business by, for example, prohibiting competition from vendors within a defined area for a certain amount of time.[1] There is no question that such clauses are valuable to purchasers and essential in the mergers and acquisition context.

The Canadian Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) has long recognized that non-compete clauses “can serve legitimate purposes”. However, the Bureau’s approach to non-compete clauses has been revised in its updated Competitor Collaboration Guidelines (the “CCGs”), which were issued on May 6, 2021 – see our prior blog post titled “New Competitor Collaboration Guidelines”. Significantly, as discussed in more detail below, the Bureau has signalled that it may consider such clauses under the criminal cartel provisions in the Competition Act (the “Act”) where they, for example, amount to a market allocation agreement or there is evidence that they are nothing more than a “sham”.
Continue Reading Non-Compete Clauses – So What’s the Risk?

On May 6, 2021, the Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) released its new (and long-awaited)  competitor collaboration guidelines (the “New CCGs”). This is the first update to these guidelines since the previous version was published by the Bureau over a decade ago, in 2009 (the “2009 CCGs”).

The New CCGs

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

Canada’s Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) has joined an international multilateral working group that will be focusing on the analysis of pharmaceutical mergers. Initiated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the working group also includes the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Offices of State Attorneys General, the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”)

Double Ticketing

Canadian competition law prohibits businesses putting two prices on one product and charging the higher of the two prices.

This concept of double ticketing was first introduced into Canadian law in 1975 to address stores listing two different prices for a single item; however, we are now seeing the concept being extended to

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 changed every aspect of how 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 also had to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Below we discuss ten key themes seen in the competition, marketing and foreign investment law space this year, and discuss what the year ahead has in store.
Continue Reading What 2020 tells us about 2021 and beyond: Fasken’s Year-End Review of the Top 10 Trends in Canadian Competition, Marketing & Foreign Investment 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

Many have expressed concern that retailers are now incentivized to unilaterally increase the prices for products critical to the COVID-19 response. Canada’s competition enforcer, the Competition Bureau, does not have clear jurisdiction to regulate prices or otherwise directly prevent price gouging. However, the Ontario government is now expressly prohibiting price gouging for “necessary goods” (as defined). In particular, through an emergency prohibition order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act on March 27, 2020, certain persons are prohibited from selling “necessary goods” at “unconscionable prices”.


Continue Reading Ontario Implements Price Gouging Measures: What You Need to Know

Canada’s antitrust/competition, marketing and foreign investment laws continue to apply despite the global health and economic crisis arising from COVID-19. However, the enforcement of these laws are being significantly impacted by the COVID-19 response. These developments are fast moving and change almost daily.

Fasken’s Antitrust/Competition & Marketing Group continues to monitor these developments very closely.