On July 19, Les Entreprises Promécanic Ltée
(Promécanic) pleaded guilty to three counts of bid-rigging
before the Superior Court of Quebec and was fined $425,000. The
fine ranks among the largest ever imposed under the bid-rigging
offence of the Competition Act.
The bid-rigging offence is provided for by section 47 of the
Competition Act and prohibits bidders, in response to a
call for bids or tenders, to agree to not submit a bid or to submit
a bid that is the product of an agreement, when such an agreement
is unbeknownst to the person calling for the bids. It is an
indictable offence for which the sentence is a fine, the quantum
being to the court's discretion, or imprisonment for a term not
exceeding 14 years, or both. Collusion in the bidding process, the
decision to not submit bids, bid rotation and bid sharing among
bidders rank among the most widespread forms of bid-rigging.
Promécanic was convicted for taking part in an agreement
that aimed to rig bids for private sector contracts to supply and
install ventilation or air conditioning systems in residential
high-rises in the Montreal area. In 2005, a former employee of one
of the companies involved in the case raised a red flag, alerting
the Competition Bureau. The Bureau then investigated for over five
years before laying as many as 27 criminal charges. The
Bureau's investigation established that criminal activity was
committed in the process of five calls for bids between 2003 and
2005 regarding contracts valued at approximately $8 million.
In addition to the fine, Promécanic's estimator,
Joël Perreault, was barred for 10 years from carrying out any
other acts contrary to the provisions of section 47, pursuant to
the court's prohibition order. Other charges against Mr.
Perreault were dropped in exchange for his cooperation with the
Bureau's prosecution of the other defendants. In 2006, Mr.
Perreault was accused of obstruction and destruction of documents
following a visit by the Bureau's inspectors, who were carrying
our searches of Promécanic's premises.
The Bureau closely monitors companies that could be tempted to
engage in bid-rigging. The bid and tender process, common in
construction contracts as well as contracts from government
offices, is intended to provide the lowest prices to the Canadian
public. In fact, recent studies found that when companies engage in
bid-rigging, it frequently results in a 20% price increase for the
affected products and services.
The imposing $425,000 fine comes in the wake of the forceful
approach put forward by Commissioner of Competition Melanie Aitken,
whereby the Bureau intends to vigorously enforce the provisions of
the Competition Act and exert pressure on offenders who
engage in anticompetitive activities, including bid-rigging. It is
one of the Bureau's top priorities, reflected by the severity
of the penalty imposed on Promécanic.
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