The Competition Act includes criminal and civil provisions that apply to agreements between actual or potential competitors.
The criminal provision applies to agreements to fix prices, allocate markets or restrict output that are not implemented as part of a legitimate collaboration, strategic alliance or joint venture.
Other forms of collaboration, such as joint ventures and strategic alliances, may be subject to review under the civil provision, which prohibits agreements only where they prevent or lessen, or are likely to prevent or lessen, competition substantially.
The criminal conspiracy provision
Conspiracy occurs when competitors conspire, agree or arrange to:
- fix, maintain, increase or control the price for the supply of a product;
- allocate sales, territories, customers or markets for the production or supply of a product; or
- fix, maintain, control, prevent, lessen or eliminate the production or supply of a product.
Penalties for conspiracy include fines of up to $25 million, imprisonment for up to 14 years, or both. Individuals as well as companies can be charged under the conspiracy provision.
If you have been involved in a conspiracy, you could be eligible for immunity or lenient treatment if you bring information to the Competition Bureau at an early stage. For further information on our Immunity and Leniency Programs, visit our website.
If you are an employee or executive with information that your company is involved in a conspiracy, contact the Bureau. The Competition Act includes provisions that protect the identity and employment status of whistleblowers.
If you suspect that you may be a victim of a conspiracy, contact the Bureau. Persons who have suffered loss or damage as a result of a conspiracy can also bring their own legal proceedings under the Competition Act for the recovery of losses or damages.
The civil agreements provision
Many types of competitor collaborations, such as joint ventures and strategic alliances, can enhance competition and benefit the economy. At the same time, certain agreements may also result in significant harm to competition.
Existing or proposed agreements between competitors may raise concerns where they prevent or lessen, or are likely to prevent or lessen, competition substantially. The Bureau considers a variety of factors to determine whether an agreement will affect competition, resulting in higher prices or less choice for consumers.
Remedies include orders prohibiting a person from doing anything under the agreement and/or requiring a person to take any other action with the consent of the Commissioner and the person.
Remedies cannot be issued if the agreement results in efficiencies that are greater than, and offset, the agreement’s impact on competition.
For more information on how the Bureau will review collaborations between competitors under the criminal and civil provisions, see the Enforcement Guidelines on Competitor Collaboration.
The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.
Headed by the Commissioner of Competition, the Bureau is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act.
We have the ability to refer criminal matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who then decides whether to prosecute before the courts. We also have the power to bring civil matters before the Competition Tribunal or the courts, depending on the conduct in question and applicable legal provisions.
The Commissioner has the discretion to provide a binding written opinion to businesses seeking to comply with the Competition Act. Any person may request written opinions on whether proposed business plans and practices could raise concerns under the Act.
Questions or complaints
If you believe any of the laws under the Bureau’s jurisdiction have been breached, please fill out our online form, call, fax or write.
We are required by law to conduct our investigations in private. We keep the identity of the source and the information provided confidential, subject to certain exceptions.
For more information:
National Capital Region: 819‑997‑4282
TTY (for hearing impaired): 1‑866‑694‑8389
50 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0C9
This publication is intended to provide basic information only. To learn more, please refer to the full text of the Acts or contact the Competition Bureau.
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