Canada - Competition Bureau
The Competition Bureau employs a comprehensive approach - including enforcement, outreach and advocacy - to ensure a competitive and innovative marketplace that benefits consumers, businesses and the Canadian economy.
We recognise that competition and innovation are key elements of a healthy, sustainable economy. Businesses are driven to innovate in competitive markets, leading to increased productivity, efficiency and economic growth.
In the rapidly changing global economy, technological advances are enabling a wave of innovative new products, services and business models in an increasingly digital marketplace. These innovations are bringing about significant benefits for consumers and growth opportunities for businesses.
In order to maximise the potential benefits for Canadians, the Competition Bureau took coordinated action in 2016-2017 to foster open and competitive markets in which innovation can thrive.
Competition and innovation in the digital economy
Given the increasing importance of e-commerce to consumers and businesses, we took targeted action to support the growth of a competitive and innovative digital economy1 by investigating and deterring anticompetitive conduct in several key sectors.
Fighting for innovation in real estate services
Our ongoing abuse of dominance case against the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) reached a critical juncture in April 2016 when the Competition Tribunal ruled against TREB and found that the company had abused its market power by imposing restrictions on the ability of real estate agents to offer innovative products and services to consumers over the internet. The matter has been appealed by TREB to the Federal Court of Appeal and a decision is pending.
Restoring retail price competition for e-books
We also achieved an important milestone in our e-books case, signing consent agreements in January 2017 with Apple and three major publishers - Hachette, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster - to allow Canadian retailers such as Amazon and Kobo to offer consumers discounted prices on e-books.
Providing guidance on digital economy cases
In addition to securing consent agreements and court orders, we promoted transparency and certainty for businesses by providing guidance on our approach to enforcement in digital economy cases. In 2016, we published position statements summarising the results of our investigations into alleged anticompetitive conduct by Google, TMX Group Limited and Apple.
Following an extensive investigation of allegations that Google engaged in conduct contrary to the abuse of dominance provisions of the Competition Act, we found evidence to support only one of the allegations relating to certain contracts with advertisers. This issue was resolved as a result of changes Google had made to its contracts, giving advertisers more flexibility to use competing advertising platforms.
Our investigation into allegations of anticompetitive conduct by TMX Group Limited, which operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, focused on access to securities market data. We found that while TMX Group had refused requests by investment dealers to share private market data with a new entrant firm, the conduct was unlikely to violate the Competition Act. Even in the absence of TMX Group's contractual clauses, it was unlikely that sufficient future competition would have materialised.
We also closed our investigation into anticompetitive conduct by Apple related to its contracts with Canadian wireless carriers that sell and market iPhones. Our investigation did not reveal sufficient evidence to conclude that Apple had engaged in an abuse of dominance under the Competition Act.
Bureau's accomplishments for the fiscal year 2016-2017
(1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017)
Increase in number of enforcement cases in the digital economy compared to previous year
Digital enforcement cases commenced
Combating cartels and bid-rigging
Price-fixing and bid-rigging are serious criminal offences that harm consumers and businesses by driving up prices and limiting choices in the marketplace. By reducing competition, these criminal conspiracies also reduce the incentives for businesses to innovate, to pursue more efficient production processes or to develop and offer better products and services.
We continued to crack down on cartels in 2016-2017, securing significant fines and laying criminal charges against companies that participated in bid‑rigging and collusion schemes in the auto parts and infrastructure sectors, among others.
A huge win against international cartels
Our investigation into an international bid-rigging conspiracy led to the third-largest fine ever ordered by a Canadian court for bid rigging. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation pleaded guilty to three counts of bid rigging for participating in an international conspiracy and was fined C$13.4 million by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. A Bureau investigation determined that Mitsubishi Electric entered into illegal agreements with a competing Japanese car parts manufacturer. Between 2003 and 2006, the companies conspired to determine who would win certain calls for bids issued by Honda and Ford for the supply of alternators, and by General Motors for the supply of ignition coils.
To date, investigations into a series of bid-rigging agreements among car parts suppliers have resulted in the three largest fines ever ordered by a court in Canada for bid-rigging offences: Yazaki Corporation (C$30 million), Mitsubishi Electric (C$13.4 million) and Showa Corporation (C$13 million). Since April 2013, Competition Bureau investigations involving car parts have resulted in over C$84 million in fines imposed by the courts in Canada.
The Competition Bureau worked closely with the US Department of Justice on a bid-rigging conspiracy involving Japanese auto parts manufacturer Nishikawa Rubber Co Ltd, which led to a significant US$130 million fine addressing the harm caused in both Canada and the US. This is a great example of how international coordination can lead to an effective investigation and an appropriate remedy, while avoiding costly duplication of efforts.
Stopping bid-rigging in the infrastructure sector
With the government of Canada investing billions of dollars in public infrastructure projects, our work to prevent and detect bid-rigging - through a combination of outreach and enforcement - is more important than ever. Bid-rigging on public contracts prevents the government from securing good value for tax dollars spent, blocks potential competitors and new entrants from the market, and stifles economic growth and innovation in the industries involved.
In 2016-2017, our investigations led to several guilty pleas and fines for bid rigging and collusion on infrastructure projects in the province of Quebec. We count on our solid enforcement partnerships throughout Canada to tackle bid rigging in the infrastructure sector. For example, our joint investigation with the Sûreté du Québec's Service des enquêtes sur la corruption into corruption and bid rigging led to several charges for infrastructure projects in the municipality of Saint-Jean sur Richelieu.
Enhancing bid-rigging detection and prevention
To complement our enforcement actions, we increased our outreach efforts to raise awareness about cartel behaviour, delivering presentations to help public procurement officials better recognise and prevent bid-rigging. In addition, we continued to work in collaboration with Public Services and Procurement Canada on the development of a new screening mechanism - algorithms that sift through data from bid submissions for signs of agreements between competitors.
Tip line to help Canadians report federal contracting fraud
In April 2017, we appealed directly to Canadians for their help in fighting collusion and corruption in federal public contracting. In collaboration with Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, we launched a dedicated telephone tip line and online form to accept anonymous tips from Canadians who suspect fraud, collusion or corruption in federal government contracts and real property agreements.
Ensuring a competitive bidding process on public procurement contracts is essential to maximising economic growth, job creation and value for taxpayers. The Competition Bureau will continue to leverage all of the tools at its disposal to detect and deter bid-rigging related to both private and public sector contracts.
Award-winning compliance promotion
We expanded our outreach efforts in 2016-2017 to encourage businesses across Canada to adopt credible and effective corporate compliance programmes. Businesses have an important role in ensuring compliance with the law, and the Competition Bureau is active in providing guidance and tools to help businesses put in place compliance programmes.
Our Compliance Unit delivered presentations to stakeholders across the country, many of which focused specifically on small and medium-sized businesses. We held 32 compliance outreach events, including 28 presentations to targeted stakeholder groups and four presentations at tradeshows. We also collaborated with organisations such as the Canada Business Network, to promote our compliance messaging and educational material, which last year included compliance blogs and a compliance crossword puzzle to help stakeholders familiarise themselves with compliance concepts in an innovative and accessible way.
The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics recognised these considerable efforts to promote corporate compliance by awarding the Competition Bureau its 2016 International Compliance and Ethics Award.
Bureau's accomplishments for the fiscal year 2016-2017
(1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017)
Total fines imposed in cartel cases
Guilty pleas (non-contested)
Company charged criminally
Bid-rigging presentations delivered to targeted audiences
Compliance outreach events
Targeted outreach efforts (presentations and guidance) to small and medium-sized businesses
Tackling deceptive marketing practices
The Competition Bureau promoted consumer confidence by targeting deceptive marketing practices in both traditional and digital advertising. Regardless of the technology businesses use to advertise prices, products or services, they must comply with the deceptive marketing provisions of the Competition Act. We will not hesitate to take action to promote consumer confidence in the marketplace.
Record-setting restitution for consumers
We achieved significant results for consumers when Bell Canada agreed to pay up to C$11.82 million, a record-setting level of restitution, to customers for unwanted ‘premium text messaging' charges on their wireless phone bills. Bell also agreed to donate approximately C$800,000 to public interest advocacy groups.
The Bureau also investigated the marketing practices of Volkswagen Group Canada and Audi Canada, concluding that false or misleading environmental marketing claims were used to promote certain vehicles with 2.0 litre diesel powered engines. We participated in the negotiation of a Canadian class action settlement against the two car companies, which resulted in an order to pay up to C$2.1 billion to affected consumers, one of the largest consumer settlements in Canadian history. The Bureau reached a separate consent agreement with Volkswagen and Audi for an additional penalty of C$15 million as well as C$200,000 towards the Bureau's investigative costs.
Targeting hidden fees
We cracked down on the practice of ‘drip pricing', where advertised prices are unattainable due to the addition of mandatory fees or charges. The results of the Bureau's efforts included settlements with four car rental companies that had advertised unattainable prices and discounts. In June 2016, Aviscar Inc (Avis) and Budgetcar Inc (Budget) paid a C$3 million penalty and C$250,000 towards the Bureau's investigative costs. In April 2017, Hertz Canada Ltd (Hertz) and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group (Dollar Thrifty) paid a C$1.25 million penalty.
In a similar case, the Bureau found that telecom service provider Comwave's advertised prices were not attainable, and that internet and home phone services were advertised as ‘unlimited', when in fact there were monthly caps on usage. In September 2016, Comwave paid a penalty of C$300,000, and C$60,000 towards the Bureau's costs. In addition to correcting their advertising and paying these penalties, each of these companies also agreed to implement a corporate compliance programme to ensure their advertising complies with the law.
Ensuring accuracy in savings claims
Misleading savings claims are also on the Bureau's radar, through both digital platforms and more traditional advertising. Canada's Competition Act contains provisions that ensure that when advertisers promote products at sale prices, consumers are not enticed by misleading references to inflated regular prices.
Amazon Canada paid a C$1 million penalty earlier this year, as well as C$100,000 for the Bureau's investigative costs, for comparing its prices to a higher ‘list price' without verifying that those list prices actually represented a prevailing market price. As a result of our investigation, Amazon corrected its pricing practices to ensure list prices accurately reflected savings available to consumers. The policies put in place by Amazon have had an effect beyond the Canadian website, including on saving claims for products sold on www.amazon.com. We released our first position statement related to deceptive marketing practices in this case, providing businesses with transparency and guidance on our analysis in this important area of the digital economy.
The Bureau's agreements with Amazon, Avis and Budget as well as with Hertz and Dollar Thrifty also address concerns raised by the conduct under the new provisions of the Competition Act that came into force when Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation was adopted. As such, these settlements apply to all representations regarding prices and discounts, including those distributed in electronic messages.
‘Made in Canada' labelling
In December 2016, the Bureau reached a settlement with Moose International (Moose Knuckles), a premium outerwear manufacturer, to address concerns with its advertising and labelling of certain parkas promoted as ‘Made in Canada'. Moose Knuckles agreed to donate C$750,000 over five years to charities in Canada, such as those that provide winter jackets to children in need. The company also agreed to make it clearer that certain parkas are in fact made with Canadian and imported components and will ensure that representations made about parkas in Canada and worldwide abide by the settlement.
Empowering consumers against fraud and deceptive marketing practices
Giving Canadians the tools and guidance to protect themselves against fraud and deceptive marketing practices is essential to our consumer-focused work. In 2016-2017, we increased our engagement efforts to reach out to more Canadians about these important issues. We published 12 consumer alerts and three business alerts highlighting scams and deceptive marketing practices, covering topics such as internet dating scams, fraudulent online shopping offers and fake charity scams. In May 2017, the Bureau collaborated with the US Federal Trade Commission to issue a consumer alert warning consumers about a computer virus scams. This alert generated an unprecedented level of sharing through social media, reaching hundreds of thousands of users through various social media channels.
Fraud prevention month
We continued to take a leading role in fraud prevention as Chair of Canada's Fraud Prevention Forum, which brings together over 80 law enforcement agencies and public and private sector organisations to combat fraud. During the month of March, the Bureau and its partners in the Fraud Prevention Forum carried out numerous activities and hosted a variety of events to inform Canadians about the impact of fraud and how to protect themselves. Our 2017 Fraud Prevention Month campaign introduced a number of initiatives to encourage social media users to interact and share tips for fighting fraud. On ‘Mythbuster Mondays', we took to social media to debunk common myths relating to fraud using the hashtag #mythbusters. On Fridays, we published a ‘#TipOfTheWeek' related to a particular scam. And in between, our popular ‘Fraudfacts' messages highlighted eye-opening statistics related to scams. In total, the Bureau developed and shared over 750 anti-fraud messages on multiple social media platforms throughout the month.
Guidance for businesses in the digital marketplace
While the digital economy offers great potential for innovation and growth, it is also increasingly challenging for businesses to know how to play by the rules of a global marketplace and to ensure that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions. The Bureau issued the third volume of its Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest, which explores how the Bureau and its international partners are seeking new ways to foster clarity and confidence in a borderless marketplace. It also outlines the Bureau's approach to third-party charges on consumers' wireless accounts, and the marketing of ‘unlimited' telecom services. Given how important consumer access to telecommunications services is to the growth of the digital economy, it is essential that consumers get exactly what service providers represent in their advertisements.
The Competition Bureau will continue to take action to correct deceptive marketing practices and promote consumer confidence-particularly in the digital marketplace.
Bureau's accomplishments for the fiscal year 2016-2017
(1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017)
Administrative monetary penalties
Consumer and business alerts issued
Bureau video views
Mentions on Twitter
Reviewing mergers to protect competition and innovation
The Bureau reviews mergers of all sizes and in all sectors to ensure that consumers and businesses continue to benefit from a dynamic marketplace that offers innovative products and services, increased choice and competitive prices. In reviewing mergers, the Bureau considers many different elements, including the level of economic concentration in the relevant industry and the merging parties' market shares with a purpose of determining whether the merger will affect competition.
In 2016-2017, the Bureau completed 222 merger reviews, including 53 complex reviews in industries that matter to Canadians, such as agriculture, retail gasoline, pharmaceutical products and wireless telecommunications. During this period, the Bureau also reached a total of eight consent agreements. A significant number of those agreements required merging firms to sell assets, establish firewalls, or take other measures to address competition concerns in Canada.
The Bureau paid close attention to mergers in the agricultural sector and assessed the impact these transactions are likely to have on competition, including whether they are likely to affect the innovation efforts of the merging parties.
Recently, the Bureau reached a consent agreement with Dow and DuPont to address competition and innovation concerns in the supply and development of certain crop protection products and specialised packaging plastics. The Bureau concluded that the transaction would likely lessen competition and remove the incentives for the companies to innovate. To address the Bureau's concerns, DuPont agreed to sell a significant part of its global herbicides business and research and development (R&D) branch to FMC Corporation. Dow agreed to sell its global business of certain specialised plastics products, to SK Global Chemical Co LTD (SK Global), a new entrant in these markets. These sales by Dow and DuPont will preserve competition and innovation in the sale and development of key crop protection products and specialised packaging plastics.
The Bureau also reviewed a number of other mergers in the agricultural industry. After completing in-depth reviews, the Bureau concluded that some mergers did not raise concerns, such as ChemChina/Syngenta, while others raised concerns that were resolved through consent agreements, such as Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc/Andrukow and Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc/Wendland. The Bureau's work in the sector continues, with ongoing reviews of the proposed Agrium/Potash and Bayer/Monsanto mergers.
Retail gasoline sector
Competition in the gasoline industry is an area of significant interest to Canadian consumers. The Bureau does not hesitate to take action, when appropriate, to address competition concerns in this important sector.
In June 2017, the Bureau reached separate consent agreements with Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc (Couche-Tard) and Parkland Industries Ltd (Parkland) to address competition concerns arising from Couche-Tard's purchase of CST Brands Inc (CST), the owner of the Ultramar brand, and the subsequent sale of the majority of CST's Canadian assets to Parkland. These agreements preserve competition in the retail sale of gasoline in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We concluded that, if allowed to proceed, Couche-Tard's proposed acquisition of CST would likely result in a substantial lessening of competition in numerous local markets across Canada. To address this concern, Couche-Tard agreed to sell 366 gas stations and gasoline supply contracts to Parkland and one gas station to Philippe Gosselin & Associés Limitée.
Also, in September 2016, the Bureau and Couche-Tard reached an agreement related to the acquisition by Couche-Tard of retail gasoline sites from Imperial Oil. The agreement resolved our concerns that the proposed transaction would likely result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in the retail sale of gasoline in certain markets in Ontario and the Greater Montreal Area.
In June 2016, the Bureau reached a consent agreement to address competition concerns related to Le Groupe Harnois Inc's proposed acquisition of Distributions pétrolières Therrien Inc's gasoline supply arrangements. This consent agreement requires Harnois to sell a retail station or a distribution contract in Quebec, and removes Harnois' ability to influence gasoline retail prices in the area. We concluded that without the remedy in the consent agreement, Harnois would have the ability to raise retail prices at its corporate stations and raise wholesale prices at the dealer stations it supplies.
We are confident that these agreements will address the competition concerns identified and support the objective of preserving competition and fair retail gasoline prices for Canadians.
The healthcare sector is a key component of the Canadian economy, and effective competition from generic pharmaceuticals helps to restrain healthcare expenditures and ensure the well-being of Canadians.
In December 2016, the Bureau determined that McKesson Canada Corporation's (McKesson) acquisition of Rexall Pharmacy Group Ltd (Rexall) would have resulted in a likely substantial lessening or prevention of competition in the market for wholesale and retail sale of certain pharmacy products and services, including prescription and over the counter pharmaceuticals. The concern was addressed through a consent agreement, whereby McKesson agreed to sell 27 Rexall's retail pharmacies in 26 communities across Canada.
In April 2016, the Bureau reached a consent agreement with Teva, which resolves the competition concerns related to the transaction. We concluded that Teva's acquisition of Allergan's generic pharmaceutical business would likely have resulted in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition for the sale of two pharmaceutical products in Canada due to the elimination of future competition between the parties. In conducting the review, we cooperated with a number of our international counterparts, including the United States Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission.
Industrial wood coatings sector
In May 2017, the Bureau reached a consent agreement with the Sherwin-Williams Company (Sherwin-Williams) related to its acquisition of the Valspar Corporation (Valspar), which resolves competition concerns in the market for high volume orders of industrial wood coatings in Canada. The Bureau's investigation concluded that the proposed transaction, if allowed to proceed, would likely result in a substantial lessening of competition and increase prices for industrial wood coatings, such as varnishes and lacquers used by manufacturers of kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and furniture and building products.
To address the Bureau's concerns, Sherwin-Williams have agreed to sell Valspar's industrial wood coatings assets in Canada and the US to Axalta Coating System Ltd (Axalta), a new entrant in this market. The sale of Valspar's assets include manufacturing plants, research and development assets, intellectual property, and customer contracts, which we determined would be necessary to preserve competition and protect innovation in the market. As the assets being sold by Valspar are located in both Canada and the US, the Bureau worked closely with the United States Federal Trade Commission, which also reviewed the transaction.
Wireless telecommunications sector
In February 2017, the Bureau reached an agreement with BCE Inc (Bell) and Xplornet Communications Inc (Xplornet) related to Bell's acquisition of Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS). Our investigation of the proposed merger determined that it would result in the removal of a strong regional competitor that was effective in constraining the pricing of Bell, Rogers and TELUS products. We determined that the removal of MTS would likely result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition for retail wireless services in Manitoba. This would likely lead to higher prices and fewer options for Manitobans.
Under the terms of the consent agreement, Bell must sell six retail stores, 24,700 subscribers and 40MHz of spectrum to Xplornet, a leading provider of rural broadband internet through fixed wireless and satellite networks throughout Canada, including rural Manitoba. The divestiture to Xplornet will establish a new entrant in the Manitoba mobile wireless services market. Additionally, Bell has committed to selling a significant number of its MTS subscribers and approximately one-third of its MTS dealer locations to TELUS.
The consent agreement, including Bell's commitment to complete its transaction with TELUS, addresses our concerns related to the transaction. We will continue to keep a close watch on competition across Canada in the wireless telecommunications sector. Given the findings of our review, any future potential mergers by Canada's three largest mobile wireless providers, Bell, Rogers and TELUS, can expect to receive a close examination by the Bureau.
Protecting Canadians from paying higher prices for their office products
The Bureau took action to protect businesses and organisations across Canada from paying higher prices for their office products. The Staples/Office Depot matter was challenged before the Tribunal in 2015, and it remained ongoing until May 2016. In light of announcements by the parties that they were abandoning the proposed merger, we officially withdrew the application to the Tribunal challenging Staples' proposed acquisition of Office Depot.
This was the final action in a historic case where simultaneous court challenges were filed for the first time by Canadian and American agencies in an antitrust matter. The transaction was challenged by the Bureau and the US Federal Trade Commission on the grounds that the merger would harm competition in the office products delivery business.
Following the issuance in May 2016 of an injunction in the US preventing the parties from closing the proposed global merger for an interim period, the parties announced their decision to abandon the deal, thereby eliminating the need for us to proceed with our application before the Tribunal. The review of this global merger demonstrates how we can work closely with our international counterparts to ensure that competition in Canada is protected.
Increasing transparency in merger review
To ensure greater transparency of the merger review process, the Bureau published a template for merger consent agreements to give the Canadian legal and business communities more insight into terms that we negotiate for merger remedies.
The Bureau also ramped up its efforts to provide guidance and transparency to the legal community and industry stakeholders, as well as the general public by publishing position statements describing the Bureau's analysis of a particular proposed transaction and its main findings.
Bureau's accomplishments for the fiscal year 2016-2017
(1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017)
Mergers reviews completed
Non-complex mergers reviewed within service standard
Complex mergers reviewed within service standard
Merger-related consent agreements registered with the Tribunal
Merger abandoned by the parties due to competition concerns
Competitive, innovative marketplaces do not stand still. As they evolve, the ways that they are regulated must change as well. As part of our mandate, we participate in a wide range of activities to promote and advocate for the benefits of a competitive marketplace - lower prices, more choice and greater innovation - both in Canada and abroad.
As technological change spurs new business models, we engage policymakers and thought leaders on emerging issues, such as big data and pro-competitive regulatory approaches to the financial technology services (fintech) sector.
Making the case for competition and innovation in the healthcare sector
We released two publications advocating for more competition in the healthcare sector. In October 2016, we published a report suggesting that restrictions on advertising in the healthcare industry, intended to protect consumer safety, can unintentionally reduce competition and stifle innovation, and we advocated for governments and regulating bodies to conduct more research on the outcomes of their policies. Our March 2017 issue of the Competition Advocate focused on regulations for nurse practitioners. We underlined the importance of provincial/territorial health regulators incorporating non-restrictive policies and explained the benefits (to patients and the healthcare system as a whole) that can result from reducing the barriers that prevent or discourage the nurse practitioner business model. This includes potentially reducing wait times for patients and costs on the healthcare system. The publication was well-received by regulators, and may inform further discussions about the role of nurse practitioners as these issues evolve.
Protecting the interests of Canadian consumers and businesses
We advocated for more competition in the telecommunications sector by calling on the Canadian Radio television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from using differential pricing with regard to their own or affiliated content. Differential pricing is the practice of charging one price for one type of online content and another price for other types of content. When ISPs receive financial benefit from content providers for favouring their content, differential pricing can harm competition, stifle innovation and impede consumer choice. It can also decrease product quality and increase the prices paid by consumers. In April 2017, the CRTC established a framework that prohibits differential pricing practices that favour certain types of content over others. This decision aligns with our recommendation to disallow differential pricing where an ISP receives financial benefit for favouring certain content, but goes further by ruling against any preferential treatment of data.
We also provided expert advice to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) in an anti-dumping proceeding involving duties imposed on US drywall, by highlighting the harmful impact of the duties on competition and consumers in Western Canada. In its final decision, the CITT concluded that the imposition of duties in their full amount would be contrary to Canada's economic, trade and commercial interests and would substantially reduce competition in the market and cause significant harm to consumers and businesses.
An innovative approach to intellectual property
As advanced consumer and business technologies become increasingly common and complex, we have seen a surge in the importance and value of intellectual property (IP) to our economy. Business practices involving IP are likewise becoming more complex and more strategic. As the intersection of IP and competition law has evolved, so has the Bureau's approach to supporting dynamic competition and innovation in the marketplace. The Competition Bureau won praise from leading international antitrust experts for its revised IP Enforcement Guidelines (IPEGs), which provide greater clarity to stakeholders on how the Bureau deals with competition issues involving IP. The Bureau was honoured with the title of ‘Most Innovative Soft Law' (intellectual property section) at the 2017 International Antitrust Writing Awards. The award singled out the Bureau's IPEGs as the most innovative non-enforcement tool by a competition agency on issues relating to antitrust and IP.
A closer look at innovation in the financial services sector
New services and products from financial technology (fintech) companies are rapidly changing the way Canadians obtain financial services. In May 2016, we launched a market study into technology-led innovation in the Canadian financial services sector to understand the impact of these innovations on the competitive landscape. As part of this study, we organised a workshop in February 2017 that brought together more than 228 representatives from the fintech community, banks, provincial and federal regulators, and international experts to discuss the intersection of competition, innovation and regulation in Canada's financial services sector. This study will allow us to advise and guide financial sector regulators and other relevant authorities on maintaining a competitive landscape in which innovation can thrive.
Getting big on big data
With the expansion of digital technologies, the amount of consumer data available has exponentially increased. This has led to massive data sets that can be analysed to identity patterns and trends that inform decision making. In 2017-2018, we will publish a white paper exploring issues related to big data, from a competition perspective, and articulate the Bureau's approach to big data in enforcement matters. Activities like these build on our past work, such as the workshop we held in 2016-2017 on the policy implications of disruptive business models and non-price effects in competition analysis.
Bureau's accomplishments for the fiscal year 2016-2017
Representations before regulatory bodies
Other advocacy interventions
Issues of Competition Advocate
Participants at our fintech workshop
Collaborating with partners
Collaborating with our partners to tackle anticompetitive conduct in Canada and abroad is key to fulfilling our mandate. As the marketplace becomes more complex and increasingly globalised, we recognise the importance of partnering with other Canadian agencies and international peers. Doing so extends our reach while making efficient use of our available resources - without duplicating effort, time or cost.
Since April 2016, we signed four new cooperation instruments with our international partners, bringing the total number to 20 cooperation instruments with 15 jurisdictions. In April 2016, we signed a second-generation cooperation arrangement with the New Zealand Commerce Commission, enhancing our capacity to share information and provide investigative assistance. We also strengthened our network of international partners by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Hong Kong Competition Commission in December 2016, its first international cooperation instrument related to competition. In May 2017, we signed a second cooperation arrangement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission to bolster information sharing and build ties between the enforcement agencies. In June 2017, we also signed an MOU with Colombia's Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, fulfilling a commitment made under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to establish a cooperation instrument between the countries' respective competition authorities.
We continued to make substantive contributions to work products in the OECD Competition Committee, the International Competition Network (ICN) and the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN). The Competition Bureau takes a leadership role in these organisations, including as a member of the ICN and OECD executive bodies, as co-chair of the ICN's Agency Effectiveness Working Group, and as the ICN Secretariat. The Bureau also serves as the ICN-OECD liaison, coordinating the efforts of both agencies.
On the domestic front, we signed MOUs with the Inspector General of the City of Montreal and Transport Canada's Policy Group. We now have MOUs with more than a dozen law enforcement and regulatory agencies across Canada that enhance our efforts in enforcement, outreach and competition promotion.
Bureau's accomplishments for the fiscal year 2016-2017
(1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017)
New international cooperation agreements signed
Meetings with foreign law enforcement agencies or competition authorities
International fora meeting and workshops
Technical assistance initiatives
New domestic cooperation agreements signed
We encourage innovation within the Bureau itself, in the spirit of continuous improvement, as we strive to be an agency that is nimble, creative and ahead of the curve. We have taken important steps towards ensuring we maintain a highly performing workforce and a respectful, diverse, healthy, inclusive work environment.
Our Talent Management Strategy was developed in 2016-2017 to provide employees with growth and learning opportunities, as well as a clear path for career development. This three-year Strategy is designed to ensure that we continue to develop and nurture our high performing workforce. It focuses on four priority areas identified by employees - development, training, mobility and engagement and workplace issues - and outlines deliverables that will be implemented throughout the next three years. As part of our commitment to promote mental health awareness and well-being within our organisation, we created a Workplace Wellbeing Network within the Bureau and provided numerous training and information sessions on mental health to staff and senior management.
Innovation remains a key theme for us at the Competition Bureau heading into 2017-2018. With countries around the world seeking to attract talent, develop new technologies and grow successful companies, Canada is in the midst of a global innovation race. We know that open and competitive markets spur innovation by stimulating creative thinking, driving efficiency and energising productivity.
We are committed to ensuring that our efforts make a difference in the context of evolving market conditions. We remain dedicated to executing our core mandate of protecting competition and enforcing Canada's competition laws for the benefit of companies and consumers, and will continue to identify areas of emerging, new or pressing need.
- Cases that support innovation and the competitiveness of the digital economy (including but not limited to e-business, online promotions, sales and transfers, infrastructure support) by deterring anticompetitive conduct such as impeding new entrants, products or services, and by stopping deceptive marketing practices online including activities that engage the Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL) provisions.