Canada: The Price Transparency Act: Frequently Asked Questions

As we blogged about in December, the Government of Canada has introduced legislation that will grant the Commissioner of Competition broad powers to investigate and report on so-called "price gaps" between Canada and the US (i.e., products or classes of products whose selling price in Canada is higher than their selling price in the US).

The "frequently asked questions" below are intended to assist businesses in understanding (i) who will be affected by the law; (ii) what investigatory powers the Commissioner will have; and (iii) the ultimate outcome of "price gap" reviews.

You can also download a PDF copy of the FAQ.


Q. What is required in order to begin a price gap inquiry?

In order to begin an inquiry, the Commissioner must simply have reason to believe that the selling price of a product (or class of products) is or was higher in Canada than the selling price of that product – or of a similar product or class of similar products – in the US.

The Commissioner is not required to believe that the observed price difference is discriminatory or otherwise unjustifiable. Moreover, the PTA does not require that the selling prices be adjusted to reflect the current exchange rate.

However, in practice, the Commissioner will have limited resources with which to enforce the law. He is unlikely to choose to commence inquiries where price differences are small and clearly justifiable (e.g., explained by the current exchange rate).

Q. Are price gap inquiries limited to products, or can they relate to services as well?

Inquiries can be started with respect to any product or service, or any class of product or service.

Q. Can customers or suppliers force the Commissioner to begin a price gap inquiry into a particular product?

No. Only the Commissioner can begin an inquiry. However, the Commissioner's enforcement decisions may be informed by complaints he receives from market participants.

Q. Can the Commissioner inquire into price differences between Canada and countries other than the US?

No. The PTA is limited to differences in selling price between Canada and the US.


Q. Once a price gap inquiry is started, what information-gathering powers will the Commissioner have?

Once an inquiry is started, the Commissioner will be able to seek court orders compelling any person who is likely to have information relevant to the inquiry to: (i) produce any records or documents (including e-mails, voicemails, and any other type of document); and (ii) respond in writing to specific questions.

Applications for court orders are made on an ex parte basis, meaning that the target of the order is typically not represented in court.

Q. Can these court orders require production of documents by people and affiliates located outside Canada (e.g., a foreign parent), even if the Canadian business does not have access to those documents?

Likely, yes. The PTA explicitly allows the court to make orders against persons and companies located outside Canada, although there is debate as to whether and how this provision can be enforced.

Q. Will companies be informed if a price gap inquiry is started? Will companies be informed in advance if the Commissioner intends to seek a court order?

Not necessarily. The Commissioner is not required to inform parties when an inquiry is started, or before seeking a court order. However, if a company knows or believes itself to be the subject of an inquiry, it may request (in writing) that the Commissioner provide an update on the status of the inquiry.

Q. Would the PTA allow the Commissioner to obtain a search warrant or carry out "dawn raids" regarding price gap concerns?

No. The Commissioner's information-gathering powers are limited to court orders requiring the production of documents and/or written responses to questions. The Commissioner cannot obtain search warrants.

Q. Are inquiries public? What information will be available to the public?

In general, inquiries under the Competition Act must be conducted in private. Documents and information provided to the Commissioner are kept confidential, subject to three principal exceptions:

  • If the Commissioner seeks and obtains a court order, all materials filed with the court are available to the public (unless sealed).
  • The Commissioner may publicize information received in an inquiry "for the purposes of the administration or enforcement of the [Competition] Act". The scope of this exception is not well defined, but the Commissioner has taken an expansive view in the past.
  • The reports that the Commissioner prepares in connection with inquiries must be made publicly available (see below).

No documents or information provided to the Commissioner may be obtained through requests under the Access to Information Act.

Q. Will private litigants be able to obtain access to material collected by the Commissioner?

Maybe. A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision suggests that private litigants may, in some cases, be able to obtain evidence collected by the Commissioner as part of inquiries under the Competition Act. It is not clear whether and how this decision might apply to evidence collected in the course of a "price gap" inquiry.

Q. What about contracts that are subject to confidentiality or non-disclosure obligations?

If the Commissioner obtains a court order, contractual confidentiality or non-disclosure provisions do not permit a party to withhold (or redact) any documents.


Q. What will the Commissioner do in an inquiry? What is the outcome of an inquiry?

The Commissioner will inquire into the difference in selling price, with a view to determining the facts, including the extent of the difference between the selling prices and the reasons for that difference. Then, he must issue a public report setting out his conclusions. The PTA requires the Commissioner to take all reasonable steps to complete the report within one year after he receives information he considers to be sufficient for the inquiry.

Q. Can I appeal the Commissioner's findings, or do anything to prevent him from issuing a report that I consider incorrect?

No. The PTA does not provide for any appeal process, or any other participation by the companies whose products are the subject of the inquiry. As a matter of practice, the Commissioner will very likely be willing to hear from affected parties as part of his inquiry, but he is under no obligation to take their feedback into account when preparing his report.

Q. What if the Commissioner finds documents related to a potential offence that has nothing to do with a "price gap"?

With respect to businesses, any information obtained through a court order can be used as part of investigations (or prosecutions) under other provisions of the Competition Act, and can be shared with other Canadian government officials for investigations under other laws. However, any information provided by an individual cannot be used against him or her in criminal proceedings. In general, the Commissioner cannot share information with foreign officials, except with a company's consent.

Q. Apart from the public report, is the Commissioner able to seek any other types of penalties (e.g., fines, court orders, etc.)?

No. The PTA only allows (and requires) the Commissioner to issue a report. No other penalties may be imposed.

Q. Is the Commissioner required to issue a report in connection with every price gap inquiry, even if the price difference is found to be justifiable?

Likely, yes. If, in the course of an inquiry, the Commissioner determines that a price difference is justifiable (or otherwise not objectionable), he may choose to discontinue the inquiry. The proposed law is not clear as to whether the Commissioner is required to issue a report even if an inquiry is discontinued, but it appears likely. If the Commissioner chooses not to discontinue the inquiry, he is required to issue a report.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.