Canada: Competition Bureau

At the Competition Bureau, we promote healthy competition through a balanced approach involving enforcement, advocacy and outreach. We work to ensure compliance with the legislation we oversee by collaborating with Canadians, including the business and legal communities, to achieve more than we can alone – for the benefit of consumers, businesses and the economy.

This approach is part of a transition we began in 2012–2013. It involves taking opportunities to engage in strategic interventions and encourage competition in regulated sectors; expanding our outreach efforts; and, more recently, taking an active advocacy role in promoting healthy competition through enhanced collaboration and communication with stakeholders.

We continue to seek out opportunities to advocate for increased competition in areas that have a direct effect on consumers. To support this objective, we conducted a public consultation asking Canadians to identify sectors of the economy in which the Bureau could play a targeted role in advocating for increased competition. The feedback we received was excellent, including a validation that we are focusing our advocacy efforts in the areas that matter most to Canadians, including the telecommunications sector and regulatory restrictions imposed on competition within professions.

In the past year, the Bureau has provided submissions to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on its proposed mandatory code of conduct governing wireless telecommunication service contracts, as well as in connection with its reviews of broadcasting services, wireless roaming rates and wholesale mobile wireless services. We have also have undertaken a review of the restrictions on advertising among pharmacists, dentists and veterinarians. The products and services these professionals provide are critical to the welfare of Canadians. As such, the Bureau has a responsibility to promote competition in these areas to ensure that consumers benefit from lower prices, more choices and higher quality goods and services.

All of this advocacy work is carried out alongside the Bureau’s ongoing and vigilant competition law enforcement to protect Canadians from anti-competitive activities. During the past fiscal year, the Bureau’s enforcement actions yielded record fines in criminal cases, with more than C$54 million in fines imposed for criminal bid-rigging and price-fixing violations. We also laid charges in a number of ongoing cases, including cases related to the price fixing of chocolate products in Canada; bid rigging on road, water treatment and infrastructure contracts; and bid rigging on federal government contracts for information technology services and real estate advisory services. The Bureau is also continuing its efforts to bring increased retail price competition in the sale of e-books, and to allow for the emergence of innovative business models in the real estate sector. With respect to merger review, the Bureau resolved a number of complex mergers during the past year by securing consent agreements that preserved competition in several key sectors. For instance, through significant divestitures or behavioural restrictions on merging parties, the Bureau preserved competition in the supply of speciality television programming services, as well as the retail sale of groceries, pharmacy products and drugstore merchandise in Canada.

Whether engaging in advocacy to promote competition or taking enforcement actions to ensure compliance with the law, the Bureau has worked to establish more developed, diversified and coordinated relationships with its partners and stakeholders, with the goal of increasing our effectiveness in delivering on our mandate. For example, the Bureau has signed memoranda of understanding or similar documents with a number of departments and regulators in Canada in the past year, including the CRTC, Public Works and Government Services Canada, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and the Market Surveillance Administrator of Alberta. These agreements promote collaboration by, among other things, providing for the sharing of information and best practices. The Bureau has also strengthened its relationship with key international competition authorities – including those in the US, China, India and Latin America – improving the Bureau’s effectiveness in addressing cross-border competition concerns.

For the 2014–2015 year, the Bureau will continue its balanced approach to ensuring compliance with the law by pursuing the following four priorities.

Apply effective and integrated enforcement and administration of the Competition Act and labelling statutes

The Bureau will leverage and integrate all its available tools to ensure maximum compliance with the legislation it oversees as economically as possible, adopting collaborative approaches to enforcement and continuing to consider the priorities of Canadians in focusing enforcement efforts.

In the coming year, we will take fuller advantage of outreach, communication, advocacy, publications, voluntary compliance mechanisms, suasion and consent. Where appropriate, we will adopt collaborative enforcement approaches by working with other law enforcement agencies or government agencies on specific cases or initiatives so as to better exploit our mutual resources.

The Bureau will also advance operational improvements through enforcement policies and procedures, such as making greater use of evidence-handling software to assist with the review of document production.

Increase competition promotion efforts to advance a culture of compliance and competition advocacy

The Bureau will increase its competition promotion efforts through its advocacy, stakeholder outreach and communication functions. We will complete market studies; broaden awareness of, and support for, competition principles; increase the competition-related advice we offer to other government departments; continue to meet with our stakeholders to address key matters; continue to diversify and strengthen partnerships with key regulators, domestically and internationally; and enhance our participation in multilateral fora, roundtables and workshops.

In addition, as part of our ongoing Action Plan on Transparency, we will continue to consult on important issues and provide guidance on investigations and stakeholder communications through our ‘Information Bulletin on Communication during Inquiries’, position statements and other guidance documents.

Align with and deliver on Canadian government priorities

As an independent law enforcement agency, the Bureau sets and pursues our priorities in awareness of the broader Canadian context, the priorities of the Canadian government and the interests of the Canadian public as a whole.

The Bureau will complement a consumer agenda by supporting the government’s intention to address unjustified cross-border price discrimination, by continuing our advocacy efforts on telecommunications and wireless issues through interventions or submissions before the CRTC, and by implementing and enforcing Canada’s anti-spam legislation, which came into force in July 2014, in collaboration with the privacy commissioner of Canada and the CRTC.

Increase efficiency through our people, planning and systems

Through greater internal collaboration, the Bureau will better integrate our business processes and better employ our deep, diverse skill sets to ensure fair, healthy competition in Canada as efficiently and effectively as possible.

To demonstrate fiscal restraint, allow for sound resource management, increase collaboration and enable high performance, we will implement a new organisational structure that will maximise the use of our people, skills and experience. The Bureau will also improve accountability and performance reporting by finalising and implementing a performance measurement strategy.

Delivering on these four priorities will ensure a balanced and integrated approach that will make our influence greater than the sum of our parts and allow us to employ the full set of tools at our disposal: communication, education, suasion and enforcement. It will also allow us to collaborate with our stakeholders and co­operate with our enforcement partners to strengthen our capacity and broaden our reach. In the coming year, we look forward to advancing the Bureau’s ability to ensure a competitive marketplace, benefiting Canada through increased innovation and economic activity, and delivering more choice and lower prices to consumers.

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