Consumer anger over rising food prices has rekindled anger over the infamous bread price-fixing scandal. The scandal went public in 2017, when several big grocers allegedly colluded to drive up the price of bread.
“It’s time to get answers,” said Eileen Brecon, 76, an anti-poverty activist from Elliot Lake, Ontario. She said, “It’s not right that the poor are suffering so much and the rich are… continuing to raise prices.”
According to data released on Tuesday, Grocery prices rose 11% Year after year.
The federal government Committed to Grocery Code of Conduct It helps promote competition in the industry. And in response to allegations that grocery stores are making excessive profits, government When Canadian Competition Bureau I’m researching food prices in Canada.
At a parliamentary committee hearing last month, Loblaw Companies Ltd. (which owns Loblaws and Superstore) and Empire Company Ltd. (which owns Sobeys and Safeway) said they were charging high costs from their suppliers, rather than making a profit. Said it was passed on.
Meanwhile, the Competition Bureau is still investigating the bread price-fixing scheme almost five and a half years after it launched its investigation on August 11, 2017.
No charges have been filed, and the competition watchdog said no wrongdoing has been concluded at this time.
“Before reaching any conclusions regarding possible violations of law, the Bureau must thoroughly investigate all the facts of the case,” spokesperson Marie-Christine Vezina said in an email.
She did not provide a timeline, saying that by law the bureau must do its work in secret.
Soaring food prices Canadians frustrated with grocery stores
8 years since Loblaw tips
Nearly eight years ago in March 2015, Loblaw Warned Competition Bureau From 2001 to 2015, he was allegedly involved in an industry-wide price fixing arrangement to artificially increase the price of some packaged bread.
Loblaw was acquitted of prosecution for his cooperation.then served to the customer Cover with a $25 gift card.
In 2017, the agency began investigating other suspected parties, including grocers Sobeys, Walmart, Metro and Giant Tiger, and producer and distributor Canada Bread. also targeted Maple Leaf Foods. Largest shareholder of Canada Bread Until 2014.
View | Are You Gouged Out At The Grocery Store?
Food distribution expert Sylvain Charlebois says the investigation is taking too long and the lack of results is undermining the confidence of Canadians as food prices rise. .
“The crisis in grocery store confidence has a lot to do with the fact that there’s still unfinished business out there,” said Charlevoix, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. is needed.”
But competition law expert Jennifer Quaid said gathering the evidence needed to prove a price-fixing conspiracy could take time.
‘[It’s] Quaid, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said it’s especially difficult when we’re talking about large, economically powerful entities. ”
Other Grocers React
In 2004, the Competition Bureau launched a three-year investigation. Price-fixing allegations at gas stations in QuebecBy 2008, 13 people and 11 companies had been criminally charged in the case, and by 2009, most of them pleaded guilty.
Quaid suggests that the investigation yielded quicker results because many of the people involved agreed to help the Bureau investigate.
“The defining feature there is that people worked together and acquired immunity so they could get wiretapped. They could catch people calling each other. .”
Loblaw is cooperating with the price-fixing investigation, but Mr. Quaid said it took longer than expected because none of the other alleged parties appeared to offer confessions and cooperation in exchange for leniency. Said it could happen.
Sobeys, Walmart and Giant Tiger each told CBC News they had no reason to believe they were violating competition laws.
“We have vigorously fought against these irresponsible allegations,” Sobeys spokesperson Tshani Jaja wrote in an email.
Metro says it complies with the law and “has never been found to violate competition laws.”
Mexican multinational Grupo Bimbo, which acquired Canada Bread in 2014, declined to comment. Maple Leaf Foods said it was unaware of any wrongdoing when Canada Bread was a majority shareholder.
According to Quaid, the biggest risk from protracted investigations is that evidence can become more difficult to secure over time.
“For example, it may be difficult to keep track of the people involved. They may have moved, worked elsewhere, or passed away.”
Even if no charges were filed as a result of the investigation, the story of fixing the price of bread would not be closed. one in ontario When one of quebechave been proven in court and are seeking financial compensation from the companies each were allegedly involved with.
At the very least, anti-poverty activist Brecon hopes the lawsuit will bring in some extra cash for class-action members who may be struggling with rising food prices.
“I know a lot of people who are going through very difficult times,” she said.