Starting November 20, 2012, an individual convicted of making an anti-competitive agreement with a competitor or misleading representations to the public can be punished with prison time, instead of community service, when found guilty of violating certain criminal provisions of the Competition Act.

Several criminal sentencing provisions of the Safe Streets and Communities Act come into force today, imposing stricter sentences for convictions under sections 45 (price-fixing), 47 (bid-rigging) or 52 (misleading advertising) of the Competition Act.  This will have two important impacts on individuals convicted under these criminal sections:

  1. Judges will lose the ability to sentence an individual to community service, also known as a conditional sentence. As a result, sentences under sections 45, 47 or 52 will need to be served in prison and cannot be completed by community service or house arrest. To date, no Canadian has ever served time in jail for price-fixing or bid-rigging offences and as such, this represents a fundamental shift in how these offences will be punished.
  2. Individuals convicted under sections 45, 47 or 52 will have to wait 10 years, instead of the current five years, to apply for a pardon or record suspension after the sentence has expired. This will make it more difficult for individuals to travel abroad – particularly to the United States – in the 10 years following the expiry of a sentence.  As such, the ability to take family vacations abroad or travel for work will be constrained.

Because there will now be less flexibility in the sentences that can be agreed to, these changes will also affect the way that corporations and individuals work out plea agreements with the Competition Bureau and the Director of Public Prosecutions.  

Further details on the Safe Streets and Communities Act and its implications on the Competition Act can be found in our previous legal update on the topic.