On November 10, 2015, the Competition Bureau (Bureau) released the final version of the Competition and Compliance Framework bulletin following a period of public comment on the draft released in May 2015. This bulletin replaces the Bureau’s previous Conformity Continuum bulletin, last updated in 2000, and underscores the Bureau’s recent priority focus on competition law compliance.
The bulletin establishes five governing principles that are intended to guide the Bureau’s compliance and enforcement activities in both civil and criminal matters. This articulation not only provides helpful guidance but also arguably increases the Bureau’s accountability to the business community.
- Confidentiality: The Bureau will continue to adopt proper safeguards to protect confidential information to ensure the integrity of the investigative process and commercially sensitive information provided to the Bureau.
- Fairness: The Bureau will be fair in its decisions and try to strike the right balance between enforcement and compliance.
- Predictability: The Bureau will provide appropriate background information on its decisions and publish its position on as many issues as possible, which should make Bureau positions more predictable and allow businesses to arrange their affairs to be in compliance with the law.
- Timeliness: The Bureau will strive to deal with issues quickly.
- Transparency: The Bureau will be as open as possible in the circumstances, develop appropriate service standards, develop performance standards, and be prepared to be judged according to these standards.
The bulletin also outlines the various outreach, enforcement and advocacy instruments used by the Bureau to promote compliance with the Competition Act:
- Outreach: Whether in the form of general information about the Bureau and its mandate; formal guidance in the context of bulletins, policies and procedures; or specific guidance through matter-related position statements, discussion papers or workshops, outreach is an important tool in the Bureau’s compliance promotion efforts. For the business community, these forms of guidance — and, in particular, increasingly frequent and transparent specific guidance — may provide useful insight into the Bureau’s analytical approach and views on specific issues and industries.
- Enforcement: While voluntary compliance is the objective, the Bureau has a range of instruments available for the resolution of non-compliance, including through consensual means, such as negotiated consent agreements in the civil context and immunity and leniency applications in the criminal context, or litigation in both criminal and civil matters.
- Advocacy: As part of its advocacy and promotion efforts, the Bureau conducts market studies and engages the public for feedback and comments, and may be expected to increasingly provide advice to other government regulators through its recently established Competition Promotion Branch.
While it remains to be seen whether the issuance of the bulletin foreshadows an uptick in enforcement action by the Bureau, it does highlight the Bureau’s ongoing commitment to compliance and transparency