Compliance programs: Why it's important

Fact Sheet

June 3, 2015

Importance of compliance programs

Robust competition helps consumers by keeping prices low and by improving choice and the quality of products in the marketplace. It also helps business by ensuring that you can get a good deal from your suppliers and it provides incentives to keep costs down and innovate. Making sure that your advertising and other representations about your products and business are accurate—and fair—helps to build your reputation for honesty and integrity. Competition is good for the economy and Canada’s prosperity.

But not everyone plays by the rules or is sure what kinds of business practices are offside. Breaking the law is easier than you might think, and even the best managers cannot know what all of the employees are doing all of the time, particularly if employees are trying to hide risky or illegal activities with competitors. The consequences of breaking the law can be very serious, and can even put the company’s survival at risk.

Some business people think that competition and labelling laws only apply to “big businesses”; but, in fact, they apply to most businesses in Canada, including small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs). Each law‑abiding citizen knows that they should not commit theft, fraud or otherwise break the law, and businesses also need to be aware of the law and follow good management practices that will help to ensure that they comply with the law.

How the Competition Bureau treats compliance programs

The law does not require companies to have compliance programs. But it is a smart business step.

A compliance program does not give a company or individuals a free pass if they are involved in a violation; however, having a credible and effective compliance program can provide benefits in dealing with the Competition Bureau to resolve a violation of one of the legislation it enforces, including being in a better position to:

  • apply for immunity or leniency for cartel offences;
  • seek more favourable remedies for civil violations;
  • assert that the company took steps to avoid being involved in anti‑competitive activities;
  • have the Bureau handle the matter as a civil as opposed to a criminal violation; and
  • resolve the matter without contested (and expensive) court or Competition Tribunal proceedings.

Also, be sure to keep records of everything you do in your program. This will help if the company gets into trouble, decides to cooperate with the government, and wants to show that it truly is a good corporate citizen. This can affect how the Bureau deals with you. Understand that once something goes wrong, your credibility is on the line. The more you can prove that you did try to do the right thing and acted in good faith, the better it is for you.

For more information, see the Competition Bureau’s Corporate Compliance Programs bulletin, available on its website.

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