Competition Bureau — All about written opinions
Q1 – How do I request a written opinion from the Bureau?
You may contact the Bureau's Information Centre toll free at 1-800-348-5358 or online. An information officer will be able to guide you through the process.
Q2 – What will a written opinion tell me?
A written opinion provided pursuant to section 124.1 of the Competition Act will provide the Commissioner's binding opinion on whether particular provisions of the Act, as set out in the request, are applicable to the proposed conduct or practice described by the facts provided with a request. A written opinion will not provide a binding opinion on whether the Commissioner would exercise enforcement discretion to commence an inquiry or pursue other enforcement activity with respect to the proposed conduct or practice.
Q3 – What if I receive a written opinion from the Bureau, and am subsequently investigated by another law enforcement agency?
A written opinion from the Bureau does not preclude any other law enforcement agency from commencing an investigation.
Q4 – I picked up one of your pamphlets at a recent trade show and am concerned that I or other members of my industry may be engaging in business activity that is in contravention of the Competition Act. Should I request a written opinion?
No. Written opinions are advice and guidance that are provided for proposed business conduct. In this case, because the issue is one of existing conduct, we would encourage a party to seek independent legal advice and consult the Competition Bureau's enforcement guidelines and publications available at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca. For further information on Bureau publications, contact the Bureau's Information Centre toll free at 1-800-348-5358 or online.
Q5 – How long will written opinions provided under section 124.1 of the Act be binding on the Commissioner?
Written opinions remain binding provided the practice is carried out substantially as proposed and the material facts upon which the opinion was based remain substantially unchanged, and the law remains unchanged.
Q6 – Could the Bureau decide not to provide a written opinion?
Yes. The Commissioner may decide not to provide an opinion. Examples of circumstances in which the Commissioner may exercise discretion not to provide a written opinion might include where the information requirements set out in the Fee and Service Standards Handbook for Written Opinions are not met; the facts are uncertain or hypothetical; the Bureau requires information from third parties; providing an opinion could interfere with an ongoing examination or inquiry by the Bureau; or if it is otherwise reasonable in the Commissioner's opinion to decline.. With respect to requests for written opinions under paragraph 74.01(1)(b) of the Act concerning representations relating to performance, efficacy or length of life of a product, the Bureau may decide to seek independent review by an expert of any such claim or tests accompanying an applicant's product. With respect to requests for written opinions under sections 55 and 55.1 of the Act concerning multi-level marketing and pyramid selling, the general circumstances under which the Commissioner may exercise discretion not to provide a written opinion are set out in the Bureau's Enforcement Guidelines on Multi-Level Marketing Plans and Schemes of Pyramid Selling.
Q7 – Can the Bureau use the information received in the request for a written opinion in order to start an investigation?
Q8 – What is the money required to submit a written opinion used for?
As per Treasury Board policy, all revenue from fees must be used to fund the service areas for which they are collected.
Q9 – What forms of payment are acceptable?
Payment may be made by VISA, MasterCard, cheque and wire transfer.
Q10 – To whom is the cheque made payable?
The Receiver General for Canada.
Q11 – Are there fees associated with wire transfers?
Fees may be associated with making a wire transfer; we would recommend that you contact your financial institution in this regard. As well, you must add $10 to the fees payable to the Bureau. This cost is related to service fees charged to the Bureau by financial institutions for accepting wire transfers.
Q12 – Am I required to pay GST, PST and/or HST?
Written opinion requests and photocopying services are subject to the GST; Quebec residents also pay provincial sales tax and British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia residents pay the HST.
Q13 – Why do requests for written opinions involving sections 45 to 51, 79 and 90.1 take more time and cost more?
It has been the Bureau's experience that such requests are more complex and require more time. Fees for written opinions are based on the cost to the Bureau for providing the specific service.
Q14 – If I request a written opinion, how do I know what to pay?
Fees for written opinions depend on the section of the Act involved. Please consult the Bureau's Fee and Service Standards Handbook for Written Opinions or contact the Bureau's Information Centre, toll free 1-800-348-5358 or online, if you are uncertain as to the appropriate fee. Taxes apply to written opinion requests.
Q15 – How can I determine what section of the Act my request pertains to?
The Bureau has published many brochures and guidelines that will help you. You can view them on the Bureau's Web site, or ask for a copy by contacting the Bureau's Information Centre, toll free at 1-800-348-5358 or online.
Q16 – If a request seeks a written opinion on the applicability of more than one section of the Act, do I pay fees for every section?
No. You will be required to pay the highest fee to reflect and cover the higher costs of providing the more resource-intensive service, as determined by the Bureau's schedule of fees.
Q17 – Do I need to pay again if I request a written opinion that includes essentially the same information as a previous request?
Yes, a new fee will apply because the Bureau needs to reassess the criteria to provide the written opinion. The Bureau classifies each request on a case-by-case basis. A written opinion is based on the information provided, considering previous opinions, legislation, jurisprudence and the stated policies of the Commissioner at the time the opinion is issued.
Q18 – Does everyone have to pay the full fee required for a written opinion?
No. Charitable organizations pay $50. The Bureau applies the Income Tax Act's definition of a charitable organization to determine the applicability of this exception.
Q19 – Do other government departments have to pay the fee for written opinions?
Q20 – When do I have to pay for my written opinion?
The fee for a written opinion should be submitted with the request itself. If the payment is not submitted with the request, the party will be notified and the Bureau will commence the review, but the written opinion will not be released without payment.
Q21 – In the event that the Commissioner decides not to provide a written opinion, will the fee be returned to the requesting party?
The fee will be returned upon request if the Commissioner decides not to provide a written opinion within 14 days of receiving the request for a written opinion, or the Commissioner decides not to provide a written opinion and deems that it would be reasonable in the circumstances to provide a refund.
Q22 – Under what authority can you collect these fees?
The Minister of Industry has the authority pursuant to the Department of Industry Act (DIA) to implement fees. The specific authority is Section 19 of the DIA for written opinions and photocopies. The Fee and Service Standards Policy was published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on November 29, 1997 as required pursuant to subsection 21(2) of the DIA.
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