Criminal Investigations: Basic Process

The following is a short outline of how the Competition Bureau investigates marketplace activity which may be subject to criminal sanctions under the Competition Act (the Act):

  • The Bureau initiates investigations as the result of information it obtains about marketplace practices that may be anti‑competitive and contrary to Canada's competition laws.
  • The Bureau obtains information from a variety of sources, including observations of markets by its staff. Many investigations are the result of information provided to the Bureau by complainants. Complaints are often made by consumers, businesses, informants or whistleblowers. Information may also be provided by participants in illegal activity seeking immunity from prosecution, or leniency, under the Act.
  • During the typical examination stage, Bureau investigators identify all available sources of information about the relevant marketplace activity, determine whether any issues are raised under the Act and assess whether further investigation is appropriate. The Commissioner of Competition may commence a formal inquiry if there is reason to believe that an offence has been, or is about to be, committed.
  • In the course of the Bureau's examinations and inquiries, investigators may interview suppliers, customers, competitors and other industry sources. The Commissioner may use a range of investigative tools to obtain evidence in an inquiry as provided under the Act and under Canada's Criminal Code (searches, production orders for records, provision of written responses to questions, oral examinations and wiretapping). The Bureau's Immunity Program often plays a key role in assisting the Bureau to uncover, investigate and prosecute criminal offences under the Act.
  • Bureau inquiries must be conducted in private. The Act's confidentiality provision prohibits the disclosure of information obtained by the Bureau, with certain limited exceptions including where information is communicated to a Canadian law enforcement agency or for the purposes of administration or enforcement of the Act.
  • Where Bureau investigators secure sufficient evidence of an offence, the Commissioner may refer the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution.
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