Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne indicated that consumer protection will be an important part of the Canadian government’s legislative and political agenda for the remainder of its current term of office. Although the speech mentioned several priority areas, there was a clear focus on taking steps to reduce the prices paid by Canadians across a range of industries.
Specifically, the government indicated that it will focus on the following pocketbook issues that affect Canadian consumers:
Cross-Border Price Discrepancies: addressing the perceived price differences between the cost of identical goods sold in Canada and the US
Wireless: reduce roaming fees on networks within Canada;
Television: require channels to be unbundled thereby allowing consumers to choose the combination of channels they want
Banking: Expand no-cost basic banking services; and
Payment Methods: require the disclosure of the cost(s) of paying by debit or credit card. This is consistent with the Minister of Finance’s July 2013 statement (following the Competition Tribunal’s decision in Visa/MasterCard) which emphasized the importance of clear rules and information about payment methods for the benefit of merchants and consumers. To view our previous post on this case, please click here.
The issue of cross-border pricing raises potential competition law issues, as, according to media reports, the Canadian government is prepared to look at amending the Competition Act so that the abuse of dominant position provisions would include “exploitative pricing” (i.e., charging too much). Other commentators have indicated that the government may be considering amendments to the provisions of the Competition Act relating to price maintenance, exclusive dealing, tied selling and market restriction.
While it is unclear when any proposed amendments to the Competition Act may come into force, it is likely that there would be a consultation process during which stakeholders could provide comments regarding any proposed changes to the law.