On November 22, 2011, the Competition Bureau announced that criminal charges had been laid against six companies and five individuals accused of rigging bids for municipal and provincial sewer services contracts in the greater Montreal area. Bid-rigging, in which two or more bidders agree among themselves on whether or how to submit bids, without informing the person calling for the bids, is a criminal offence under section 47 of the Competition Act.
The Crown alleges that the accused companies and individuals conspired to pre-determine the winners of 37 municipal and provincial calls for tender in 2008 and 2009 related to the cleaning and maintenance of sewers, with a total value of C$3.3 million. The bidders who were not pre-determined to win allegedly submitted inflated, token bids in order to mislead tendering authorities into believing that the processes were competitive. Because the alleged conduct took place prior to the 2009 amendments to the Competition Act which increased the maximum penalties available under section 47, the accused face maximum penalties of up to five years in prison and/or a fine in the discretion of the court.
The Bureau also noted that its investigation benefitted from cooperation under its immunity and leniency programs, which provide incentives for parties involved in criminal conduct to self-report the conduct to the Bureau.