Never before have foreign investors faced the same level of scrutiny or uncertainty  

Bill C-20 has passed Canada’s Senate and received Royal Assent, becoming law on July 27, 2020. Part 3 of the Bill becomes the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) and will be of particular and urgent interest to non-Canadians contemplating the

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

Competition Bureau’s Position on Advertising During COVID-19 Pandemic

In the context of COVID-19, the Competition Bureau (“Bureau”), in coordination with Health Canada, has indicated its intention to take action against companies that fail to comply with the Competition Act (the “Act”) and, in particular, its provisions relating to misleading advertising and performance claims. The Act includes a wide range of civil and criminal deceptive marketing practices provisions that apply to anyone who is promoting a product, service or business interest. 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.

On March 20, 2020 the Bureau issued a statement confirming its commitment to enforcing the Act against deceptive marking practices relating to COVID-19 and, in particular, false, misleading or unsubstantiated performance claims about a product’s ability to prevent, treat or cure the virus. Subsequently, the Bureau has actively solicited complaints from the public on its website and on social media. Even before the pandemic, the Bureau indicated in its 2019-20 Annual Plan that it intends to “[p]rioritize high-impact and consumer-focused enforcement cases” that “[f]ocus on key areas important to all Canadians including…health and bio-sciences” and that it intends to support Canadian health care by, among other things, “[pushing] for … [t]ruth in the advertising of health … products and services”.
Continue Reading Regulators Crack Down on Misleading Advertising and Performance Claims Related to COVID-19

In an April 18, 2020 policy statement, the Government of Canada (“GOC”) announced that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, investments by non-Canadians “related to public health or involved in the supply of critical goods and services to Canadians or to the Government” would be subject to “enhanced scrutiny” under the Investment

As previously discussed in our Refresher on the Failing Firm Defence, many companies will be facing insolvency or bankruptcy in the aftermath of COVID-19. This could lead to a situation in which financially stronger companies want to purchase struggling competitors. In this context, it is likely that the Competition Bureau will be asked to approve otherwise “problematic” mergers on the basis of what is commonly known at the “failing firm” defence.

On April 29, 2020, the Bureau issued a Position Statement providing additional guidance on the failing firm defence and, in particular, the types of information that are most relevant for a timely and efficient analysis of a failing firm. The key aspects of this guidance are summarized in this blog post.


Continue Reading Competition Bureau Provides Guidance on Failing Firm Analysis

“There’s nothing like a global pandemic to give globalism a bad name.”

Susan Delacourt, National Columnist, The Star

With Canada’s largest trading partner taking an “America first” approach to trade even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, can “Canada first” thinking be far behind, especially in light of Canada’s and other nations’ COVID-19 experiences? PPE

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic with declining demand and excess capacity in many sectors, companies will want to take advantage of opportunities to increase operational efficiencies, including through mergers and acquisitions. Where such mergers are efficiency motivated, there may be increased scope for merging parties to use the efficiencies defence in Canada – something that was successfully done by Canadian National Railway Company late last year in connection with its acquisition of H&R Transport Limited (the “Transaction”).

Competition Bureau Review

Following its review of the Transaction, the Competition Bureau concluded that the Transaction would likely result in a substantial lessening of competition for full truckload refrigerated intermodal services in eight relevant markets in Canada. In particular, the Bureau found that CN would be able to charge higher prices and provide lower quality service to customers in those markets. However, as discussed in more detail in its New Release and Position Statement issued last week, the Bureau ultimately decided to discontinue its investigation and allow the Transaction to proceed after concluding that the efficiencies defence had been satisfied.
Continue Reading The Efficiencies Defence – Here We Go Again!

As discussed in our previous post, on April 18, 2020, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry released a policy statement announcing that, in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, certain foreign investments into Canada will be subject to enhanced scrutiny under the Investment Canada Act (the “Act”).


Continue Reading Enhanced Scrutiny of Foreign State-Owned Investors / Critical Infrastructure at the Heart of Canadian National Security Concerns

On April 18, 2020, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry released a policy statement announcing that certain foreign investments into Canada will be subject to enhanced scrutiny under the Investment Canada Act (the “Act”), in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.In particular, the Government will scrutinize “foreign direct investment of any value,