Cartels and the Competition Act

Canada's Competition Act contains several provisions that prohibit cartels.

Depending on the nature of the arrangement, a cartel could be unlawful under more than one of these provisions.

For more information on the approach the Bureau takes to assessing collaborations between competitors, consult the Competitor Collaboration Guidelines.

Conspiracies under section 45

Section 45 is the cornerstone provision of the Competition Act.

It applies to agreements or arrangements between or among competitors or potential competitors in respect of a product to fix prices, allocate markets or restrict output for that product.This offence is known as a “conspiracy” and is punishable by fine of up to $25 million and/or imprisonment for up to 14 years.

In determining whether an agreement exists, the Bureau will consider whether the parties to the alleged agreement or arrangement reached a "meeting of the minds", either explicitly or tacitly, to engage in the conduct described in subsection 45(1). This subsection will apply to all forms of agreements between competitors, regardless of the degree of formality or enforceability and regardless of whether it has been implemented.

To convict a person or a business of a conspiracy offence, the prosecutor must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the accused participant carried out the specific conduct prohibited by section 45 and that the accused intended to commit the offence.

Foreign directives under section 46

Section 46 makes it a criminal offence for a company carrying on business in Canada to implement any foreign directive intended to give effect to a conspiracy entered into outside of Canada that would contravene section 45 if it had been entered into in Canada.

This provision is targeted specifically at international cartel activity affecting Canada. It allows the application of the Competition Act even in situations where the actual conspirators are not located or incorporated in Canada. Penalties include a fine in the discretion of the court.

For more information on the Bureau’s work internationally, consult International efforts.

Bid‑rigging under section 47

Section 47 makes it a criminal offence for two or more bidders, in response to a call or request for bids or tenders, to agree that one party will refrain from bidding, withdraw a submitted bid, or to agree among themselves on bids submitted, without informing the person calling for the bids of this agreement. Penalties for bid‑rigging include a fine in the discretion of the court and/or a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Private legal action under section 36

Under section 36, victims of cartel activity may take private legal action against the participants for damages.

Date modified: