The Competition Bureau's month in review — 2016
CB in Brief is an electronic publication, distributed regularly to media and stakeholders to provide a snapshot of recent news and developments.
Annual Internet Sweep focusses on online reviews and endorsements
The Competition Bureau and international partners conducted their annual sweep of the internet last month with this year's target being online reviews and endorsements.
The sweep is aimed at identifying websites that may use online reviews or endorsements as part of their business model. Bureau follow‑up action may range from opening an investigation, to issuing a consumer alert, to sending a warning or information letter.
This year's focus follows the recent publication of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network's (ICPEN) Online Reviews and Endorsement Guidelines for digital influencers, such as bloggers and tweeters, review administrators who are responsible to process consumer reviews online, and marketing professionals. The Guidelines outline the do's and don'ts of product reviews to ensure that consumers get reliable information when shopping on‑line.
It is a priority for the Bureau that Canadian consumers get the information they need to confidently take part in the burgeoning digital economy. Consumers who believe they have been misled by fake online reviews or deceptive endorsements should file a complaint with the Bureau or contact the Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre.
Competition Bureau engages with enforcement partners in Asia
Commissioner of Competition, John Pecman, visited Seoul, Korea from September 7 to 9 to discuss competition law enforcement and policy issues, and to enhance cooperation with counterparts.
The Commissioner met with the Chairman of the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), Jae‑Chan Jeong. The heads of agencies provided updates on recent developments and shared best practices. Representatives from Canada and Korea regularly meet for bilateral meetings in accordance with the cooperation arrangement between the Bureau and the KFTC, signed in 2006.
During his visit, the Commissioner also delivered a keynote address on international cooperation during merger reviews at a workshop hosted by the OECD Korea Policy Centre, and participated on a panel regarding the effects of Most Favoured Nation clauses in online platform markets at the 9th Seoul International Competition Forum.
The Bureau's cooperation with its international counterparts allows for effective enforcement and administration of the Competition Act and strengthens efforts to address anti‑competitive cross‑border conduct.
Competition Bureau partners with National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance Canada to fight cyber-crime
The Competition Bureau and the National Cyber‑Forensics and Training Alliance Canada (NCFTA) have recently signed a Letter of Expression of Interest that sets out areas of mutual interest and support in identifying cyber threats to Canada and, more specifically, in combating false and deceptive marketing practices in the online marketplace that adversely impact Canadian consumers and businesses.
This is a very positive step forward in terms of supporting the Bureau's work related to the digital economy. This working partnership will allow us to draw upon the "on‑the‑ground" expertise of cyber‑crime subject matter experts at the NCFTA Canada laboratory in Montreal, Quebec, including regional Bureau partners from the Canadian Radio‑television Telecommunications Commission, who are also NCFTA Canada partners, all within the bounds of a safe online working environment.
Commissioner of Competition meets with British counterpart
Commissioner of Competition John Pecman met with David Currie, Chairman of the United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), in Gatineau on July 4 and 5, 2016.
The counterparts shared lessons learned in recent cartel and deceptive marketing practices investigations. They also discussed the work of the CMA's merger remedies unit and the Bureau's ongoing market study into technology led innovation in the Canadian financial services (FinTech) sector. The CMA is a world leader in market studies and recently published a report on financial institutions in the UK.
Commissioner Pecman and Chairman Currie also met with Innovation Science and Economic Development's (ISED) Associate Deputy Minister Kelly Gillis. Discussion topics included how competition agencies are enabling innovation and the CMA's institutional structure and governance. They also touched on the Canadian government's new focus on “deliverology”, an outcome‑based method of measuring success in the public sector that originated in the UK.
The Bureau and the CMA have recently collaborated on a variety of matters, such as Corporate Compliance, the Iron Mountain merger, International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) initiatives, and competition issues related to emerging technologies. Meetings with international counterparts contribute to increasing global cooperation, trust, and the exchange of best practices. They also enhance the Bureau's ability to effectively administer and enforce the Competition Act, so that Canadian consumers and businesses can prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.
New international truth‑in‑advertising guidelines for online reviews and endorsements
On June 30, 2016, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) published three new guidelines for online reviews and endorsements. They are aimed at traders and marketing professionals, review administrators and digital influencers, such as bloggers and online publications.
The guidelines reflect basic truth‑in‑advertising principles found in ICPEN member countries and are available on the ICPEN’s website. The guidelines were developed by the Online Reviews and Endorsements working group of which the Competition Bureau is a member.
The Bureau has been a member of ICPEN, an organization comprised of consumer protection authorities from over 50 countries, since 1992.
Commissioner of Competition meets with Taiwanese counterparts
On Monday, June 27, 2016, Commissioner John Pecman met with Dr. Shiow‑Ming Wu, Chairman of the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (FTC) in Taipei City, Taiwan. The Taiwanese and Canadian delegations discussed recent developments in competition law and organizational priorities. They also shared case‑related best practices and feedback on the operation of leniency programs.
The Competition Bureau cooperates with the Taiwan FTC on enforcement and policy matters in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada and the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei Regarding the Application of Competition Laws, which was signed in 2009.
On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, the Commissioner also participated on a panel at the Taiwan International Conference on Competition Policy / Law, where he discussed international cooperation in competition enforcement with representatives from Germany, Indonesia and New Zealand.
Competition Bureau visits the Hong Kong Competition Commission
On Thursday, June 30, 2016, the Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong hosted a competition roundtable, where Commissioner Pecman met with Hong Kong antitrust lawyers to discuss the importance of advocacy and compliance. Commissioner Pecman then met with officials from the Hong Kong Competition Commission, including the Chairperson, Ms. Anna Wu Hung‑yuk, for a productive discussion on recent developments in competition law and policy.
Meetings between the Bureau and its international counterparts facilitate communication, collaboration and trust between competition agencies, which is essential in a global economy where business activities cross borders. These meetings reflect the Bureau’s commitment to increased international cooperation and the exchange of best practices, which aids in the effective enforcement and administration of the Competition Act.
Learn more about the Bureau’s international efforts.
Market definition highlighted in two recent merger reviews
Two position statements issued this month highlight factors relevant to market definition in the automobile dealer and traveller accommodation industries.
In both industries, competition is inherently local. Still, in its review of car dealership acquisitions, the Bureau considered whether a broader geographic market would be appropriate, since consumers may be willing to shop outside their local area in order to get a competitive price on a new vehicle.
The Bureau also took into account the effect of e‑commerce on competition, with online advertised prices playing a role in consumer decisions and behaviour in both industries.
The Competition Bureau statement regarding the proposed acquisition by Marriott of Starwood and the Competition Bureau statement regarding the acquisition of Freedom Ford Sales Limited by 1911265 Alberta Ltd. are available on the Bureau’s website.
Learn more about the merger review process.
Commissioner discusses innovation and smarter regulation on BNN’s The Disruptors
The Commissioner of Competition, John Pecman, discussed innovation and smarter regulation on The Disruptors on the Business News Network (BNN) last week. The Disruptors is a TV program dedicated to innovation, disruptive business models and new technologies. It speaks to entrepreneurs and other stakeholders at the leading edge of innovation, who may be directly affected by regulations that support the status quo.
All governments and regulators should be working with industry and consumer groups to have a fresh look at the regulations that currently exist, to see if they are truly necessary — and where there’s disruption and consumer demand, think about making changes," Commissioner Pecman said.
The complete interview is available here: innovation vs. regulation in Canada.
For more information on the Bureau’s work on emerging competition issues please see: Competition and innovative business models examined by world experts in Ottawa.
Competition Bureau meets with Vietnamese counterparts
Officials from the Competition Bureau and the Vietnam Competition Authority (VCA) met in Gatineau from March 7th to 9th to discuss recent competition law and policy developments. Discussion topics included agency priorities, international cooperation and advocacy. These meetings reflect the Bureau’s commitment to increased cooperation and the exchange of best practices.
Vietnam is an important trading partner for Canada and a member of the Trans‑Pacific Partnership agreement, which was signed last month by both countries, but has not been ratified.
The VCA delegation met with the Bureau and other Canadian competition law experts as part of a Study Mission under the National Legislative Development Project being implemented by the Canadian Bar Association, the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, and Stikeman Elliott LLP. The project is funded by Global Affairs Canada.
Learn more about the Bureau’s international efforts.
The 2013‑2014 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Competition
The 2013‑2014 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Competition is now available on the Bureau’s website.
The Competition Bureau’s Quarterly Report
The Competition Bureau’s Quarterly Report for the period ending December 31, 2015, is now available on the Bureau’s website. As part of the Bureau’s Action Plan on Transparency, the quarterly reports provide Canadians with up‑to‑date statistics on a wide range of the Bureau’s activities in support of an innovative and competitive marketplace.
A Quebec company fined $35,000 for participating in a bid-rigging conspiracy
A Quebec company has pleaded guilty to one count of bid‑rigging related to repair work on Courville Street in St‑Jean‑sur‑Richelieu in May 2008. On January 27, 2016, Construction Beaudin & Courville inc. was fined $35,000 by the Superior Court of Quebec for conspiring with other firms. The company has already reimbursed $149,000 to the City of St‑Jean as part of an out‑of‑court settlement related to a civil suit by the city. The charges against Alain Courville, the owner, were stayed by the Crown.
These charges were laid in January 2014 following a joint investigation by the Sûreté du Québec’s Service des enquêtes sur la corruption, a division of the Unité permanente anticorruption (permanent anti-corruption squad, known by the acronym UPAC), and the Bureau.
Emerging Competition Issues — Keeping Pace in a Changing World
The Competition Bureau brought together world experts in emerging competition issues on January 19th to discuss how innovative new business models are affecting the competitive landscape in Canada, and how competition policy can keep up with the rapid pace of change. Participants discussed two key themes:
- disruptive business models and their implications for competition policy, and
- how best to incorporate non‑price effects, such as innovation, quality and consumer choice, into competition assessment frameworks.
The Competition Bureau was pleased to host over 120 participants representing a variety of backgrounds and interests, including competition authorities, government regulators, academics, and the business and legal communities. We will be sharing key insights from the workshop in coming weeks via a short series of interviews with key influencers from the workshop to be posted on YouTube and a report summarizing the discussions.
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