At least 7 companies investigated in bread price-fixing probe

George Weston Ltd., Loblaw Companies Ltd. admits participating in bread price-fixing arrangement

The Competition Bureau’s investigation into allegations of bread price-fixing includes at least seven companies from bakery wholesalers and discount chains to Canada’s three major grocers, according to court documents.

George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Companies Ltd. admitted Tuesday to participating in an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement for over a decade and tipping off the country’s competition watchdog.

The Competition Bureau executed search warrants at the offices of a number of grocers earlier this fall, but has said there has been no conclusion of wrongdoing and no charges have been laid.

The investigation began on Aug. 11 and was expanded on Oct. 23.

The search warrants and information to obtain them were sealed because of concerns by the watchdog that the release of the information might compromise its investigation. However, the affidavits sworn by a Competition Bureau investigator to have them sealed were unsealed by the court this week.

According to those affidavits, the regulator is also investigating the alleged involvement of Canada Bread, Walmart, Sobeys, Metro and Giant Tiger as well as “other persons known and unknown.”

“The bureau is collecting facts to determine the precise time frame of, and the participants in, the alleged conspiracy,” Simon Bessette, a senior competition law officer, swore in an affidavit on Oct. 26.

“Analyzing the records the bureau obtains from the search warrants sought in the ITO will take time; however, it would only be after such analysis is performed that the bureau would be in a position to determine whether additional investigative steps are required.”

“Should details of the bureau’s ongoing investigation be made available to the public, the integrity of the evidence available through further investigative steps and/or court authorizations may be compromised,” Bessette wrote.

Metro said in a statement Tuesday that it continues to co-operate with authorities and it has launched an internal investigation.

“Based on the information processed to date, we have found no evidence that Metro has violated the Competition Act and we do not believe that the bureau’s investigation will have a material adverse effect on the corporation’s business, results of operations or financial condition,” the statement said.

Giant Tiger released a statement Wednesday saying they currently “have no reason to believe that Giant Tiger or any of our employees has violated the Competition Act.”

Walmart Canada spokesman Alex Roberton said in an email that the company “takes its legal obligations very seriously.”

Canada Bread spokeswoman Sylvia Sicuso said Tuesday that the company and its associates “operate with the highest ethical standards” and neither has been charged with any offences.

Giant Tiger, Walmart Canada and Canada Bread all said they are co-operating fully with the investigation.

Sobeys Inc. did not respond to a request for comment, but has previously said it is also co-operating.

Weston and Loblaw said Tuesday they became aware of an arrangement involving the co-ordination of retail and wholesale prices of some packaged breads from late 2001 until March 2015.

The companies said they established an independent compliance office earlier this year and provided training and re-certification to marketing personnel at Weston Bakeries and all merchants and store managers at Loblaw, as well as senior managers at both companies and at parent company George Weston.

The employees responsible for the companies’ role in the arrangement are no longer employed there.

Loblaw is also offering eligible customers a $25 gift card that can be used at its grocery stores across Canada.

The Competition Act prohibits agreements that “prevent or unduly lessen competition or to unreasonably enhance the price of a product,” according to the bureau.

That could include agreements between competitors to fix prices, or to restrict production of a product by setting quotas or other means, which would be considered cartel activities. Penalties for price fixing could include fines of up to $25 million, imprisonment to a maximum term of 14 years, or both.

However, the bureau says price-fixing conspiracies are, by their nature, difficult to detect and prove.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City council wants Nanaimo to be considered as a potential pilot site for safely supplied drugs

Council votes 6-3 to write to B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Truck loses a wheel in crash, keeps going, crashes again on Nanaimo’s Townsite Road

One person taken to hospital following accident Tuesday afternoon

Nanaimo company offering free soil for self-isolators to get into gardening

Milner Group inviting the public to pick up soil at its Biggs Road recycling facility on Saturday

Nanaimo man, allegedly drunk and high, arrested after climbing 100-foot tree

Man in sandals climbs fir tree, hurls obscenities at police below

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: RDN’s essential services maintained during pandemic

Regional District of Nanaimo chairman thanks residents for co-operation and understanding

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Nanaimo bylaw officers on the lookout for COVID-19 control infractions

Bylaw and health officers watch for health order infractions, citizens can call in complaints

Nanaimo barbershop quartet records musical tribute to Dr. Bonnie Henry

Ode to provincial health officer is to the tune of a singing valentine

Nanaimo’s Lauren Spencer-Smith advances to American Idol top 20

Teen performs Respect at outdoor concert in Hawaii

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

Nanaimo will be the community hardest-hit by ferry layoffs, union says

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union looking at its legal options

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Most Read