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Legal Guide

The Competition Act is administered by the Commissioner of Competition (the “Commissioner”), the head of the Competition Bureau, who has the power to receive formal and informal complaints and to conduct investigative inquiries. The Commissioner also has the primary responsibility for initiating proceedings before the Competition Tribunal.


Once an inquiry has been commenced under the Competition Act, the Commissioner may use a number
of different investigative tools, including seeking court orders for oral examinations, production of records, written returns of information, search warrants and, in the case of deceptive telemarketing, bid-rigging and conspiracy, wiretapping. The Competition Act contains provisions that protect the identity of informants and makes it an offence for an employer to take reprisals against employees who report conduct contrary
to the Competition Act (“whistleblowers”).

The Competition Act permits the Commissioner to seek ex parte judicial orders that authorize the oral examination of individuals under oath or affirmation, the compulsory production of documents, and written responses to questions on oath or affirmation. The Commissioner regularly uses these orders in inquiries into both alleged criminal and reviewable conduct, including mergers.

The Commissioner is also permitted to seek ex parte search warrants. Although the Competition Act permits the Commissioner to seek a search warrant for reviewable conduct, search warrants are generally reserved for circumstances where the Commissioner believes that criminal conduct has occurred or is likely to occur. Similar to “dawn raids” in other jurisdictions, searches by the Commissioner are typically executed without warning by staff of the Competition Bureau, who may sometimes be assisted by police.

The Commissioner may seek ex parte judicial authorization to intercept private communications (wiretapping) to assist the Commissioner in investigating conspiracies with respect to prices, markets or customers, quantity or quality of production, or channels or methods of distribution, and in investigations of bid-rigging and deceptive telemarketing. In order to obtain such authorization, the Commissioner must convince the court that other investigative powers available to him or her are inadequate to obtain the necessary evidence. The Commissioner requires the consent of one party to wiretap as part of an investigation of all other suspected violations of the Competition Act.

In addition to the powers listed above, the Commissioner may request that a party voluntarily respond
to a “Request for Information”. A Request for Information is normally used where the Commissioner has received a complaint and wishes to determine whether a formal inquiry is necessary. It may also be used where an inquiry has been commenced.


Pursuant to its Program of Compliance, the Competition Bureau provides its views on proposed actions by businesses in order to assist in compliance with the Competition Act through the use of specific instruments, such as written opinions. These written opinions are binding on the Commissioner if all the material facts have been submitted and these facts are accurate. Written opinions remain binding for so long as the material facts remain substantially unchanged and the practice is carried out substantially as proposed. The Bureau has established turnaround times and fees for written opinion requests. In the case of a request for a written opinion relating to the misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices sections of the Competition Act, the fee is $1,000 plus the Harmonized Sales Tax, and the maximum turnaround times are two weeks for “non-complex” and six weeks for “complex” requests. The fee for a written opinion request relating to provisions of the Competition Act dealing with conspiracy, bid-rigging, abuse of dominant position, or the new civil review provision relating to non-criminal competitor agreements, is $15,000 plus the Harmonized Sales Tax, and the maximum turnaround times are six weeks for “non-complex” and 10 weeks for “complex” requests. The fee for a written opinion request relating to notifiable transactions is $5,000 plus the Harmonized Sales Tax, and the maximum turn-around times are 14 calendar days for “non-complex” and 28 calendar days for “complex” requests. The fee for a written opinion request relating to all other provisions of the Act is $5,000 plus the Harmonized Sales Tax, and the maximum turnaround times are four weeks for “non-complex” and eight weeks for “complex” requests.

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