TORONTO — The Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency that works to ensure that Canadian businesses operate in a competitive manner, is conducting an investigation related to the price fixing of bread in the grocery industry.
“The Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa granted search warrants based on evidence that there are reasonable grounds to believe that certain individuals and companies have engaged in activities contrary to the Competition Act,” the Competition Bureau said. “Bureau officers are conducting searches and are gathering evidence to determine the facts. There is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time and no charges have been laid.”
While details of the investigation are thin, Canada Bread, George Weston Ltd., Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Metro Inc. confirmed they were aware of the investigation.
“Canada Bread Co., Ltd. has been informed it is included in an industry-wide investigation by the Competition Bureau into pricing conduct dating back to 2001,” said Canada Bread, which is a subsidiary of Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V. “The company is cooperating fully. Canada Bread operates with the highest ethical standards and complies with all legal and regulatory standards. The company has not been charged with any offenses.”
In their statement, George Weston and Loblaw said they “are aware of an industry-wide investigation by the Competition Bureau concerning a price-fixing scheme involving certain packaged bread products.”
The companies said they are “cooperating fully” and “will provide further comment when they can do so.”
Metro Inc., which operates more than 600 stores under the banners Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Food Basics, also confirmed that an investigation is under way into supply of commercial bread.
“This investigation concerns certain suppliers and Canadian retailers,” Metro said. “Metro fully cooperates with the authorities.”Under terms of its Competition Act, the Competition Bureau prohibits agreements between competitors in respect of a product “to fix, maintain, increase or control the price for the supply of the product.” According to the Competition Bureau, this includes agreements to fix prices at a predetermined level, to eliminate or reduce discounts, to increase prices, to reduce the rate or amount by which prices are lowered, to eliminate or reduce promotional allowances and to eliminate or reduce price concessions or other price?related advantages provided to customers.