Don't put your business at risk: Get the facts about collusion and cartels
This guest blog post is provided by the Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency that ensures 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 (except as it relates to food), the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act.
It's a criminal offence to collude with a competitor to fix prices, rig bids, allocate markets or restrict supply. Business owners know this. Canadians recently saw a well-publicized example of alleged collusion in the bread investigation.
What's less well-known is that businesses can also be subject to prosecution just by entering into or facilitating an agreement with competitors even if price fixing, bid-rigging, market allocation, or supply restriction didn't subsequently occur.
So, the Competition Bureau has clear advice for you: be wary of potential cartel conduct and do the right thing if you suspect it's occurring.
A cartel can occur when businesses and individuals collaborate to impact competition. They typically engage in illegal agreements in secret, operating on the belief that they won't get caught.
That's a mistake.
The Competition Bureau detects, investigates and deters cartel conduct. In addition to gathering information by exercising investigative powers as a law enforcement agency, the Bureau uses the information it obtains from individuals or businesses that come forward voluntarily.
The penalties for being implicated in a cartel — in addition to the harm done to your reputation — can include fines of up to $25 million and up to 14 years in prison, or both.
Under the Immunity and Leniency Programs, those who may be implicated in a cartel may receive immunity from prosecution if they are the first to collaborate and provide the Bureau with meaningful information.
Do the right thing, even if you are not involved. The best way to ensure that you play by the rules is to put in place a credible and effective corporate compliance program. If you have information on a potential cartel in your industry, help the Bureau investigate by filing a complaint. And, if you wish to become a whistleblower, your identity will remain confidential and you will be protected by law.
Cartels harm everyone. You have the power to stop that from happening. So, learn more today about how to prevent and report cartels.