Today, Industry Minister James Moore announced that new legislation, the “Price Transparency Act”, will be tabled in Parliament to target “unjustified” cross-border price discrimination. Minister Moore indicated that the legislation will ensure that Canadians pay “comparable prices for comparable goods”. The new law is not intended to set or regulate prices in Canada, nor does it appear that penalties can be imposed. Instead, the Commissioner of Competition will be given powers and tools to investigate and “expose” price gaps between U.S. and Canadian retailers, though the Minister noted that some higher prices are justified by legitimate higher costs of doing business on this side of the border.
The Commissioner’s powers will include the authority to:
- seek court orders to compel the production of confidential evidence relevant to differential pricing between Canada and the U.S.; and
- to seek court orders to compel witnesses for examination, the production of records and written returns of information.
According to a backgrounder just released by the Federal Government, following an inquiry by the Commissioner of Competition, the Commissioner will issue a report on its findings that will identify the causes of the price discrepancy. Minister Moore indicated that it is then up to Canadians to decide if they want to continue supporting a particular company, noting: “This is about informing the consumer by empowering the [Commissioner of Competition] so that the marketplace can react. So this is, in that sense, a tool for the free market”.
We will continue to carefully monitor these developments and report on the details and scope of the new law.