Pioneer, Canadian Tire, Mr. Gas Plead Guilty to Price Fixing

Canadian Competition Bureau uncovered evidence of collusion at pump

OTTAWA -- The Competition Bureau in Canada announced earlier this week that Pioneer Energy LP, Canadian Tire Corp. and Mr. Gas pleaded guilty to fixing the price of retail gasoline from May to November 2007 in Kingston and Brockville, Ontario.

The bureau said that it uncovered evidence that the competitors agreed among themselves to set the gasoline price for consumers at the pump. The companies pleaded guilty before the Ontario Superior Court in Brockville to price-fixing under the Competition Act and were fined a total of $2 million. Each of the companies will be subject to a court order for 10 years and they must educate their employees about the Competition Act.

"Consumers in Kingston and Brockville were denied a competitive price for gasoline as a result of this criminal price-fixing cartel," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition. "The bureau will not hesitate to take action when it uncovers evidence of illegal price-fixing."

Pioneer Energy pleaded guilty to price-fixing in Kingston and Brockville, and was fined $985,000; Canadian Tire pleaded guilty to price-fixing in Kingston and Brockville, and was fined $900,000; and Mr. Gas pleaded guilty to price-fixing in Brockville and was fined $150,000.

The criminal charges and guilty pleas are the result of an extensive bureau investigation that found evidence that gas retailers or their representatives in these local markets phoned each other and agreed on the price they would charge customers for gasoline. The bureau's investigation into potential price-fixing in the retail gasoline market continues in the Southeastern Ontario market, it said.

Price-fixing conspiracies are difficult to detect and prove, according to the bureau. High or identical prices are not in and of themselves evidence of criminal activity. There must be evidence that competitors have made an illegal agreement to set those prices. The bureau investigates when there are substantiated allegations of wrongdoing in the marketplace.

The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive marketplace.

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