For the second time, the federal government is attempting to
significantly expand the investigative powers of the Commissioner
of Competition. Although described as part of an effort to
prosecute online bullying and the exchange of illicit photographs,
Bill C-13 (titled the
Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act),
which received first reading in Canadian Parliament on November 20,
would also introduce broad new powers for the Commissioner when
investigating companies and individuals suspected of having
contravened or engaged in reviewable conduct under the
The modifications to the Competition Act
in Bill C-13 are very similar to those included in last year's
Bill C-30 (titled the Protecting
Children from Internet Predators Act), which we described in
our post last year, though provisions relating
to warrantless access to internet subscriber information have been
removed. Bill C-13 was roundly criticized by privacy advocates for
its onerous surveillance provisions, and the federal government abandoned the bill in
Like its predecessor, Bill C-13 has been criticized for its
expansive approach to investigative powers. The Globe and
Mailreported that the bill's
cyberbullying provisions "are receiving little attention.
Instead, an old controversy around [Bill C-30] is being
revived." Michael Geist also criticized the so-called
"lawful access" provisions of the bill, which
"encourage telecom companies and Internet providers to
reveal information about their customers to law enforcement without
a court order by granting them immunity from criminal or civil
liability for such disclosures."
Whether under the guise of combatting cyberbullies or internet
predators, the federal government's lawful access legislation
could have serious implications for Canadian businesses. In
January, the Commissioner announced his intention to
make increasing use of so-called "section 11 orders"
(subpoenas requiring the production of large amounts of business
documents and e-mails) in both criminal and civil investigations.
Combined with newly-enhanced investigative and monitoring powers,
the Commissioner would have considerable ability to compel the
preservation and production of confidential information not only
from businesses, but also from third parties
(i.e., their Internet service providers).
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The Commissioner of Competition addressed innovation, enforcement and policy initiatives at the Competition Bureau in his keynote speech, "Strengthening Competition: Innovation, Collaboration and Transparency."
Used car listing website operator CarGurus Inc.'s attempt to force rival Trader Corporation to supply it with vehicle listing data has encountered a dead end as the Competition Tribunal denied it leave to commence a private application under several provisions of the Competition Act.
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