Competition / Antitrust Law Definition
Broadly speaking, the purpose of Canadian competition law is to provide consumers with competitive prices and product choices. The Competition Act
is Canada's principal competition legislation. It is a federal statute that applies throughout the country to all sectors of the economy, with very limited exceptions. The Competition Act
is administered by the Competition Bureau, a branch of the federal Department of Industry. The Competition Act
contains criminal prohibitions against certain types of activities while other categories of conduct are subject to civil review at the Competition Tribunal or before the courts. Sanctions range from fines to imprisonment to orders prohibiting or prescribing certain conduct.
Competition lawyers in Canada typically provide advice to clients in the following key areas:
- Merger Transactions: The Competition Act requires that transactions over a certain size be notified to the Competition Bureau. The Bureau has the authority to review both notifiable and non-notifiable transactions to determine if they are likely to substantially prevent or lessen competition. Clients will retain competition counsel to advise on these issues. Competition counsel also will provide advice on transaction-related matters such as deal structure and purchase agreement provisions.
- Agreements Among Competitors: The Competition Act makes it a criminal offence for competitors to enter into certain types of agreements (e.g., price fixing and bid-rigging). Other agreements may be subject to civil review if their effect is to substantially prevent or lessen competition. Counsel will be called upon by clients to assess whether proposed collaborations with competitors could be subject to criminal or civil review under these provisions.
- Abuse of Dominance: Parties that "control" a market are prohibited from abusing their "dominance" in such as way as to substantially prevent or lessen competition. Parties that may hold a "dominant" position in a market will retain counsel to advise whether practices such as exclusive arrangements and loyalty rebates could be an issue.
In addition to these principal substantive areas, competition lawyers will become involved on behalf of their clients in a variety of other matters covered by the Competition Act
, including designing pricing and distribution programs; dealing with distributor terminations; and setting up advertising campaigns, contests, and other types of promotions. Counsel also will assist clients in related matters such as establishing compliance programs; dealing with Bureau investigations; and litigation (public and private).