Competition Act amendments boost Competition Bureau's authority over anti-competitive mergers

The changes involve merger control, deceptive marketing practices, and anti-competitive agreements
Competition Act amendments boost Competition Bureau's authority over anti-competitive mergers

Amendments to the Competition Act took effect on June 20, 2024, boosting the Competition Bureau’s authority over competition and anti-competitive mergers and conduct.

These changes bolster provisions related to merger control, deceptive marketing practices, anti-competitive agreements, and competition harm resulting from businesses refusing to deal with others. They also expand private access to the competition tribunal, although these specific changes will take effect on June 20, 2025.

The amendments introduce new measures to address anti-competitive mergers more effectively. These include creating a presumption that a merger is anti-competitive if it significantly increases concentration or market share, with merging parties able to rebut this presumption with sufficient evidence. The competition tribunal can now consider competitive harm in labour markets and the risk of coordination between competitors when deciding on mergers. Additionally, the amendments expand the range of mergers requiring advance notification and extend the period for challenging unnotified mergers from one year to three years. The changes also prevent parties from closing potentially harmful mergers when there is a pending application for an injunction before the competition tribunal.

The updated Competition Act also strengthens civil provisions against anti-competitive agreements. It now covers past agreements up to three years old, allowing the competition tribunal to impose monetary penalties and order corrective actions. Furthermore, private parties can now bring challenges to anti-competitive agreements directly to the competition tribunal, enhancing enforcement capabilities.

In deceptive marketing practices, the amendments require businesses to substantiate discount claims and clarify that omitting mandatory fees from advertised prices is misleading unless imposed by the government. These changes aim to tackle bogus discount claims, drip pricing, and unsupported environmental claims, commonly known as greenwashing.

Enhanced provisions regarding refusal to deal now cover situations where a refusal substantially affects part of a business and ensure access to diagnostic or repair information and related products for independent repair firms. These changes help address competition issues in the repair industry.

The competition bureau will implement these changes transparently, consulting Canadians to ensure clarity and predictability in enforcement. Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell stated, "We won’t hesitate to use these new tools to take enforcement action and protect competition so that all Canadians can benefit from lower prices, better services, and more choice."