Canada’s Competition Bureau (the Bureau) is an independent law enforcement agency responsible for investigating compliance with laws under its jurisdiction, which include the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (except as it relates to food), the Textile Labelling Act, and the Precious Metals Marking Act. The Bureau published a bulletin on Corporate Compliance Programs in 2015. It has also recently supplemented its guidance by creating a compliance portal, which provides useful and practical guidance on antitrust compliance for businesses in Canada and elsewhere.
The Importance of Compliance for Businesses
Companies with strong compliance programs are in the best position to understand their legal obligations, detect violations, and stay within the law. This will help reduce the risk of costly investigations and lawsuits that interfere with an organization’s operations, while avoiding hefty financial penalties or jail time for employees. An effective compliance program can also avoid the reputational consequences of being associated with criminal conduct and can protect a company’s ability to participate in federal public procurements. Furthermore, because larger companies often already have compliance programs in place, small and medium sized enterprises stand a better chance of doing business with them if they also have a credible compliance program. Some may even require their suppliers or partners to have it.
Competition Bureau’s Immunity and Leniency Program
A credible and effective compliance program that uncovers a possible crime at an early stage may facilitate an application under the Bureau’s Immunity and Leniency Programs. The treatment of all immunity or leniency applications under these programs depends on the relevant facts of the case, the timing of the disclosure, and the eligibility of the applicant. It is important to note that only the first individual or business to report misconduct can be eligible for immunity. A strong compliance program may also be a mitigating factor when the Bureau makes recommendations to the Public Prosecutions Service of Canada and could influence whether a matter is pursued as a criminal or civil violation.