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 Topics
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions