On March 12, 2009, the Budget Implementation Act received Royal Assent. The Act contains amendments that modernizes the Competition Act to better protect Canadians from the harm caused by anti-competitive conduct.

Two amended provisions of the Competition Act come into force. The changes to the Act allow for more effective criminal enforcement against the most serious types of cartel agreements, while providing businesses with more freedom and flexibility to benefit from legitimate alliances

The main elements are as follows:

  • Increasing the penalties for deceptive marketing practices, and expressly empowering the courts to award restitution to victims of false or misleading representations.
  • Removing criminal offences for certain pricing practices.
  • Creating a more effective mechanism for the criminal prosecution of the most egregious forms of cartel agreements between or among competitors, and introducing a civil review process for other forms of competitor collaborations.
  • Introducing a two-stage merger review process to allow for a more efficient and effective review of mergers.
  • Allowing the Competition Tribunal to award administrative monetary penalties against companies who have abused a dominant position in the marketplace.

These amendments will help ensure legitimate businesses are not victimized by the unlawful behavior of competitors through tougher penalties, particularly for abuse of dominance, bid-rigging and cartel-like activities.

The narrowing of the criminal cartel provision will promote and not deter legitimate beneficial alliances, joint ventures and other collaborations. Potentially legitimate forms of competitor collaborations will not be subject to the threat of criminal sanction.

The amendments will instill greater consumer confidence in the marketplace by deterring deceptive marketing practices and mass marketing fraud through the introduction of restitution, and more meaningful penalties.

The Competition Bureau – FAQ is an good primary source of information on these amendments to the Competition Act (Canada.),