Competition Bureau to crack down against deceptive marketing of products claiming to cure COVID-19

The Bureau will investigate collusion claims wherein competitors fix the price of such products

Competition Bureau to crack down against deceptive marketing of products claiming to cure COVID-19
Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell

The Competition Bureau will crack down against anti-competitive activities by individuals taking advantage of Canadian consumers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell has announced that the Bureau would be staying vigilant and investigating alleged violations of Canada’s competition laws, including “[d]eceptive marketing practices, such as false or misleading claims about a product’s ability to prevent, treat or cure the virus; and [c]ollusion by competing businesses, such as illegal agreements about what price to charge for products or services.”

Businesses engaging in pro-competitive collaborations to deliver affordable goods and services to meet the needs of Canadians have nothing to fear, said Boswell, as long as they make sure to comply with the Bureau’s Competitor Collaboration Guidelines.

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The Bureau is cooperating with key contacts in the federal, provincial and municipal governments and in the business and legal communities to properly deal with this evolving situation.

And in an open letter dated Mar. 18, addressed to the executive members of the Canadian Bar Association’s competition law section, Boswell described possible changes to the enforcement processes of the Bureau, as a consequence of the COVID-19 situation and the Bureau’s need to prioritize urgent issues to protect Canadians.

The Bureau has implemented remote working arrangements for its staff, where possible, and has limited communications to phone calls and other means that adhere with the social distancing guidelines issued by public health authorities. For certain documents, including advance ruling certificates, no-action letters and written opinions, the Bureau has replaced hard copies of letters with emails from signatories.

For merger transactions, the Bureau has urged parties to “contact case teams and management in the Mergers Directorate as early as possible on complex matters and throughout the conduct of a review.”

Certain procedures requiring in-person interviews, meetings and negotiations may be delayed, given these extraordinary circumstances.

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