Alleged Competition Law Violation Not Allowed to Proceed as Class Actions

In Price v. Panasonic Canada Inc., the plaintiffs sought to bring a class action for price maintenance under a provision of Canada’s Competition Act that gives the right to sue a person who has suffered loss as a result of certain types of anti-competitive conduct. Justice Shaughnessy of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled on June 6, 2002.

The plaintiffs claimed that for almost 20 years the defendant had kept its dealers from lowering the retail prices of various audio-video products. The action was brought on behalf of an estimated 20 million consumers and claimed damages of 15 per cent of the total retail price paid for these products.

The defendant successfully argued that the claim should not be allowed to proceed as a class action. In refusing to certify the proposed class, the court noted that under s. 36 of the Act, a plaintiff must prove actual loss or damage. In this case, this would require individual trials to establish loss or damage of each class member. As a result, even though the case raised a number of common issues, the more complex individual issues would make a class action unmanageable. The decision confirms that Canadian courts will scrutinize class proceedings alleging competition law violations.

Acting for the defendant were John Laskin and Linda Plumpton of Torys LLP. John L. Hill in Toronto acted for the plaintiff.